With calls for a ‘green recovery’ from the Covid-19 pandemic rocketing up the agenda, the need for investment in the energy efficiency of our homes is becoming ever clearer. The economic cost to the NHS of cold homes, at a time of great pressure, is around £1.4B[i]. In addition, reducing carbon emissions associated with energy used in our homes is one of the biggest challenges facing the nation in terms of making the transition to a net zero carbon economy. To achieve net zero carbon by 2050, we will need to improve almost all of the UK’s 29 million homes[ii], meaning we need to retrofit more than 1.8 homes every minute between now and 2050. Accelerating action on retrofit can also support more than 150,000 skilled and semi-skilled construction jobs to 2030[iii].

In short, boosting the rate of home retrofit will provide crucial support for health and wellbeing, accelerate our transition to net zero and create jobs in all parts of the country.

To help achieve this, UKGBC has brought together city and combined authority partners: Birmingham City Council, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Greater London Authority, Leeds City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority. A range of other expert stakeholders are also on board including the Active Building Centre, Bioregional, Energy Saving Trust, Green Alliance, Otley Energy, Places in Common, RetrofitWorks and UK100. The Accelerator Cities project is primarily funded by EIT Climate-KIC.

The project will support towns and cities to develop their own home retrofit programmes; help co-ordinate action between them – including sharing best practice, lessons learned, evidence and resources; support a co-ordinated approach in respect of links to financial institutions and funding opportunities; encourage greater partnership between industry and NGO groups on home retrofit; and help to co-ordinate cities’ engagement with central government on this topic.

John Alker, Director of Policy & Places at UKGBC said:

“There is a critical need to improve the nation’s health, reduce carbon emissions and create long-lasting economic benefits. Home retrofit is a triple-win that supports all three goals. Although central Government still holds many of the keys to unlocking this, cities and local authorities are stepping up to play a crucial leadership role.

“Accelerator Cities is all about supporting and enabling greater coordination between local government on home retrofit. The project will help city and local authorities as they grapple with issues such as householder engagement, skills and finance – helping to build an evidence base, learn lessons and share common approaches.”

Cllr Andrew Western, Leader of Trafford Council and Greater Manchester lead for the Green City-Region said:

“Installing energy efficient measures into the fabric of our homes to make them warmer and more cost effective is one of the key actions identified in Greater Manchester’s Five Year Environment Plan to drive down our emissions and become carbon neutral by 2038.

“As a city-region, we take pride in the great strides being taken in Greater Manchester and the appetite to both share experiences and learn from others. As our homes continue to play the role of office and school, the need to help people make energy efficient improvements and to build back greener, is even more of an incentive to be part of the Accelerator Cities project.”

Jason Torrance, Policy Director at UK100 said:

“As towns and cities across the country emerge from the COVID-19 emergency response, refocusing efforts on tackling the Climate Emergency will once again become a priority. The Accelerator Cities project couldn’t have come at a better time to support one of the biggest challenges facing local Government – the need for co-ordinated action that improves the efficiency of our homes”

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Climate Change, Transport and Sustainable Development, said:

“Tackling the climate emergency is one of the biggest challenges we will ever face and one we can only overcome by working in partnership with others. Having held a citywide consultation alongside the Leeds Climate Commission, we know that there is widespread support to tackle climate change and this includes improving the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings. We’re already working with partners to design and deliver new schemes to improve energy efficiency and tackle fuel poverty across the city and the Accelerator Cities project is a fantastic way to facilitate further collaboration and action to meet our shared targets to become carbon-neutral.”

Jacqueline Homan, Head of Environment at West Midlands Combined Authority said:  

‘The West Midlands Combined Authority has a target date of 2041 by which to achieve net zero carbon emissions. A regional retrofit programme will play a vital role in helping us achieve this, as well as bringing many other social, environmental and economic benefits, for example in tackling fuel poverty and providing support for the construction sector as we come out of the COVID-19 lockdown.’

Hywel Lloyd, Engagement Manager at Active Building Centre said:

The Active Building Centre is pleased to be a part of the Accelerator programme – only early action by communities, public authorities and local leaders will bring forward the new and better options people need for their home upgrade.  There’s a growing range of technologies – and integrated energy systems – that allow energy capture, storage, management and use (not least for their EV) that the future demands.  The Active Building Centre will be working to help ensure these technologies work well, work well together, and work well for the benefit of the householder and the local energy system too.

Sue Riddlestone OBE, Bioregional CEO and Co-founder said:

“We know from experience that what people value most about having had an energy efficiency retrofit is simply how much more comfortable they feel in their home – it’s not cold and draughty anymore.  This initiative is an opportunity to make substantive improvements to the health and happiness of millions of people across the country, putting more money in their pockets at a time when incomes are particularly stretched.”

Roz Bulleid, Deputy Policy Director at Green Alliance said:

“This year could – and must – be a turning point in how we manage our outdated and wasteful housing stock. With many different organisations now supporting retrofit, Accelerator Cities will play a valuable role in coordinating action and space to compare notes at this critical time.”

Andy Boyle, Director at Otley 2030 and Otley Energy said:

“This UKGBC city-wide approach is exactly what we need given the scale and importance of the retrofit challenge in tackling the climate emergency. The emerging models for partnerships between Local Authorities, the industry and communities are both exciting and necessary. We’ll be asking pretty much everyone in the country to upgrade their homes to some extent in the coming years. Community based action will be essential in helping people understand its vital role in reaching net-zero, the wider benefits to their lives and ensuring they can trust the advice they are getting.”

Lisa Trickett, Co-founder of Places in Common said:

It is very easy to get lost in the challenges and complexity of decarbonising the UK housing stock  – not least because we are talking about people’s homes. But we can also be talking about people’s livelihoods – with millions of homes across the country needing retrofitting it is a ready-made opportunity around which a green recovery can be built. To do that we need people with the right skills and businesses with the capability and capacity to transition and respond to the opportunities before them.  This project takes us on the first steps to understanding how we bridge that gap.

Russell Smith, Managing Director at RetrofitWorks said:

There has always been a unique opportunity with domestic retrofit to achieve multiple benefits across society, the economy and the environment not just limited to the fact that meeting our climate change commitments is impossible without retrofitting every building in the country. By creating a secure conduit between local aspirations and local firms that give the advice and carry out the work, we can enjoy a multiplier effect on the local economy as we not only spend locally, but reduce energy bills locally. Moreover, in our experience, once those local firms are on-board they sell retrofit concepts every time they meet with homeowners, a critical aspect in creating a national movement.


Find our more about the Accelerator Cities project here.

[i] AgeUK, “The Cost of Cold”, https://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/Campaigns/The_cost_of_cold_2012.pdf?dtrk=true

[ii] Committee on Climate Change, “UK housing: Fit for the future?” https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/UK-housing-Fit-for-the-future-CCC-2019.pdf

[iii] Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group