The Welsh Government has given the green light and a further £10 million to a major new programme that will transform social housing across Wales, boost the economy and open the door to a new Welsh industry.
Backed with almost £20 million, the Optimised Retrofit Programme (ORP) is a key part of the Welsh Government’s plans for a green recovery – as set out in the recently-published Covid Reconstruction: Challenges and Priorities report.
In the first year of the programme, ORP will bring together Housing Associations and councils on projects that will help upgrade at least 1,000 existing social homes through a mixture of new energy efficient materials and technologies.
Unlike other green growth or retrofit initiatives that focus on just one aspect of the house at a time, ORP takes into account the materials our homes are made from, the way we heat and store energy in our homes and the way energy is supplied to our homes.
Some of the upgrades that are to be trialled in upcoming ORP projects will include the installation of new heat pumps, intelligent energy systems and solar panels. Off gas grid properties which can be difficult and expensive to heat are also a focus of this programme.
These measures will not only help tenants and the environment by reducing the amount of carbon produced in powering and heating homes but will also be instrumental in helping to reduce fuel poverty and develop the skills and opportunities to Welsh SMEs.
There will also be much wider and far-reaching benefits for the Welsh economy. As the programme is rolled out across social housing in Wales over the coming years, this will lead to the creation of local jobs, training and apprenticeship opportunities and supply chains as part of a new Welsh retrofit industry.
The Welsh Government will continue to work with the Further Education sector to see how it can support this new industry, with the ambition of opening new retrofit academies across Wales to ensure that there are enough people with the right skills to support this new industry.
The programme will develop the local green economy and contribute to the Welsh Government’s efforts to decarbonise all 1.4 million Welsh homes by 2050. It is anticipated this could lead to as many as 15,000 jobs in Wales.
One project hoping to receive funding is a consortium of 26 Social Landlords. The consortium will work not only to improve homes across Wales but test the way heat and energy is produced, stored and supplied and develop innovative labour and material frameworks targeted at creating a ‘green economy’ by upskilling Welsh SMEs and manufacturers. Evidence shows that for every £1.4 million of investment in the delivery of domestic energy efficiency, 32.6 jobs are created or supported.
To support innovation in the ORP, social landlords were invited to apply for funding of up to £0.5 million for research and innovation projects. Applications were invited to address a range of challenges from consumer acceptance to improving the impact of retrofit. It is hoped that successful projects will improve the pipeline of innovative ideas to accelerate decarbonisation and help grow supply chains in Wales.