Through REECH, Liverpool works with a range of partners, including social housing providers and local authorities, to improve the energy efficiency of social housing and SME business premises in its most deprived communities.
REECH (Renewables and Energy Efficiency in Community Housing) was developed by a consortium of six Local Authorities and six social housing providers across Liverpool City Region as a low carbon housing and business retrofitting initiative. This €21 million project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will retrofit some 2,000 social housing units and 40 business premises with energy efficiency measures and low carbon technologies. The objectives of this initiative were to reduce energy usage, help tackle fuel poverty, develop local supply chains, and be a pilot project to help demonstrate the cost benefit and long term sustainability of retrofitting energy efficiency measures.
In doing so, it will support local supply chains, promote skills development and encourage new business start ups in this emerging sector. There is also a strong community involvement: the city is engaging with its residents to change their energy behaviour and make the best of the technologies installed in their homes.
Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/Citiesinaction_Liverpool_REECH_June15.pdf
This project was awarded the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2014 in the following category: Cooperation.
Housing accounts for about a quarter of the UK’s CO2 emissions. In Liverpool City Region, figures from 2005 showed that 22% of CO2 emissions were from housing; and its 140,000 social housing units, a fifth of the region’s housing stock, accounted for 560 kilotons of CO2 per year. As elsewhere, much of the region’s social housing has low energy performance; and many residents live in fuel poverty.
So when new European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) regulations allowed 4% of funding to be used for housing-related energy initiatives, this provided the catalyst for Liverpool city region’s collaborative green technologies pilot: Renewables and Energy Efficiency in Community Housing (REECH).
Established in 2011, REECH is designed to test the benefits, scalability and sustainability of retrofitting 14 green technologies, singly or in various combinations, into several thousand social housing units. The pilot includes low rise and high rise properties of various sizes and construction: on estates, curbside and in conservation areas.
Energy saving technologies are REECH’s first priority, including:
- insulation, such as external cladding, internal insulation for conservation areas, and triple glazing;
- LED lighting;
- voltage optimisers;
- and gas saver boilers.
Renewable energy technologies, such as solar water heating and air source heat pumps, are also being piloted.
Promoting behavioural change is integral to REECH. Residents are encouraged to adapt their energy consumption habits; REECH partners worked with Liverpool John Moores University to produce a behavioural change study. REECH partners also worked with schools and other organisations to create a fun energy board game.
Community engagement helps ensure each retrofitting scheme runs as smoothly as possible. Residents are kept fully informed, through local events and face-to-face interviews, and their concerns are taken into account.
Through REECH into Business, REECH is piloting 40 SME premises, with free energy efficiency assessments, and grants for green retrofitting and vehicle charging points.
REECH is underpinned by a strong partnership between:
- Liverpool city region’s six local authorities (Sefton as lead partner, Liverpool, Halton, St Helens, Knowsley and Wirral);
- nine of the region’s social housing providers;
- Liverpool John Moores University and other educational establishments;
- British Gas;
- the UK department of energy & climate change;
- the UK government office for communities;
- several trusts;
- a procurement social enterprise;
- and locally based suppliers and other local organisations.
All stakeholders are committed to cooperation, communication, and a willingness to adapt to circumstances. A central REECH team provides intensive support to REECH partners. This includes advice on how to comply with ERDF rules on match funding, branding, and the achievement of outcomes such as sustainability, dissemination of learning and complementary activities.
By 2016, REECH investment will total €57million:
- €19.4m of ERDF funding;
- €19.4m from national and private match-funding;
- and €18.2m additional national and private funds.
By 2016, REECH will have retrofitted some 4,000 homes with various combinations of 14 carbon-reduction technologies, saving 22 kilotons of CO2. The estimated total saving, over the lifetime of the retrofitted technologies, is 205 kilotons of CO2. In addition, REECH will have created 386 jobs, and helped 40 SMEs cut CO2 emissions. Research by Liverpool John Moores University into residents’ attitudes, energy-related behaviour and wellbeing, found that REECH resulted in less fuel poverty and fewer mental health issues.
Sarah Bevan, initiatives director at Villages Housing, assumes: "REECH has had a dramatic impact. Residents can heat their homes properly. And the estate looks much more attractive. Working with other partners, we’ve also given training and jobs to local people. It’s a win-win all round. Residents can heat their homes properly, and because they are using less energy, save themselves money."
By working with local suppliers to retrofit green technologies, REECH helps existing companies and new start-ups to deliver jobs, apprenticeships and skills training. One of the companies has diversified its business offer and almost quadrupled its turnover.
For many of the social housing provider partners in REECH, this was their first experience of using ERDF and they found the level of bureacracy and regulation difficult at times. Intensive suport had to be provided by the REECH Team from start of the project.
Weather conditions are also crucial if the insulation material is to adhere effectively to the substructure. Due to bad weather conditions; much of the work was delayed with significant disruption to work programmes, work scheduling, resouces and availability of labour. Flexibility of residents, housing providers and residents and their willingness to adapt to the changing situation helped overcome potential difficulties and meant that the works could still be finished on time.
REECH local authorities and social housing providers are now sharing best practice with other cities. They are also considering pooling their financial resources to achieve a large scale green retrofit for their social housing portfolio, based on the REECH pilot.
Alan Lunt, director built environment at Sefton metropolitan borough council explains: "Fuel poverty is one of our biggest challenges. The REECH project saves people money as well as reducing carbon use. REECH has also boosted low carbon companies to create local jobs. All aspects of REECH are highly transferable to other cities."
Cities in action - Liverpool REECH, Retrofitting green technologies - EUROCITIES, June 2015.
EUROCITIES awards entry form, REECH Initiative Liverpool, May 2014.