More than 900 low-income households in Leeds are benefiting from cheaper energy bills and comfier homes this winter, thanks to around £9.5 million of green upgrades installed free-of-charge through a Leeds City Council scheme.
Through the Better Homes Yorkshire project, the council and its partner Equans have installed energy-saving and energy-generating measures in 930 of the city's oldest and coldest privately-owned homes over the last two years.
By upgrading some of the district’s least energy efficient properties owned or rented by households on low incomes, the local authority scheme will alleviate fuel poverty whilst also reducing Leeds’ contribution to climate change.
One-in-six (16.8%) of the city’s households were classed as living in fuel poverty in 2019. However, even more families are expected to be experiencing fuel poverty this winter as household energy prices have risen by more than 80% over the last three years.
Thanks to the latest council project, 558 homes have been fitted with 1.7 megawatts of brand-new rooftop solar panels. Solar panels produce free electricity during daylight hours that can be used to power homes or even sold back to the grid, helping to reduce electricity bills.
External wall insulation was the second most popular upgrade installed with 238 households now benefitting from the technology. It is designed to mimic a building’s façade and, once fitted to the outside of a building, helps lock in heat without sacrificing indoor space
Hundreds more homeowners and private landlords across Leeds were able to install other types of insulation thanks to the green scheme including room-in-roof, loft, cavity wall, roof, underfloor, and internal wall insulation.
Studies have shown that British homes are among the least energy efficient in Europe, making them colder and more expensive to keep warm. Leeds’ homes are so leaky that heating and powering them is responsible for roughly a quarter of the city’s entire carbon footprint. Insulating a property addresses this heat leakage.
Residents were eligible for funded property improvements if they owned their home and the total income of their entire household was less than £30,000 per year—or if they received certain benefits. Applicants also had to live in a relatively inefficient home (EPC rating D or below) that was of suitable construction to qualify.
Landlords could also apply for heavily subsidised installation of the same upgrades if their tenants collectively earned less than £30,000. Seventy privately rented properties benefited from the scheme.
Better Homes Yorkshire received nearly three thousand applications for the free green home upgrades between May 2021 and March 2022—highlighting the significant public interest in home retrofit measures.
Leeds City Council secured funding to deliver the scheme from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy as part of the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery initiative, announced in 2021.
Councillor Helen Hayden, executive member for infrastructure and climate, said:
“With Leeds households facing unprecedented energy costs, I am proud of council schemes like this one for having a real impact and making things easier for nearly a thousand local families who were living in some of our coldest homes this winter.
“As well as helping residents save money and stay warm, these green upgrades will help cut carbon and prevent cold-related illness—another reminder of the immediate benefits that result from our long-term actions to tackle climate change.
“While government funding conditions mean that this scheme has to come to an end, we stand ready and look forward to helping many more Leeds families save energy when further funding becomes available.”
Equans’s Director of Sustainability for the Better Homes Yorkshire project, Steve Batty, said:
“Funding like this is vital when it comes to reducing the carbon emissions of ordinary homes and I am pleased that we have been able to bring our energy and regeneration expertise to this scheme.
“The Better Homes Yorkshire project has enabled us to work directly with Leeds City Council to make sure this funding reached the least energy efficient households and it demonstrates that a city-wide approach can achieve remarkable results. The project has paved the way for more like it as and when future funding schemes are announced.”