Public sector buildings to access £635m green energy fund

Hospitals, schools, leisure centres and town halls will be eligible to access a new government scheme that will provide financial support for green energy upgrades.

From September, hundreds of public buildings across England will be able to join the £635m Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme recently presented by the government. 

The funds will be used to install low-carbon heating such as heat pumps and energy efficiency measures including double glazing and loft insulation, which will aim to decrease soaring energy bills and improve the buildings’ climate resilience amid more and more frequent extreme weather events, such as the heatwave that hit the UK earlier this summer. 

The energy efficiency upgrades are expected to help public organisations and taxpayers save an average £650m a year on energy bills over the next 15 years, according to the Business Department (BEIS). 

It is the second part of more than £1.4bn due to be allocated through the public sector decarbonisation scheme between 2022 and 2025.  

“By helping even more public sector bodies ditch costly fossil fuels, we are taking an important step towards a more sustainable future while driving economic growth across the country and continuing to support tens of thousands of jobs,” said Lord Callanan, business and energy minister. 

The government has already awarded 34 grants to public sector organisations across England through earlier rounds of the scheme. 

Some of the projects that have already been approved as part of the scheme include heating upgrades, draught-proofing and double glazing for Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, as well as the decarbonisation of the Nash Conservatory and Jodrell Laboratory in the Royal Botanic Gardens, in Kew. 

The funding is part of the £6.6bn the government has pledged to cut fossil fuel use and emissions from buildings.

Buildings are currently responsible for 40 per cent of the planet’s total greenhouse gas emissions, with 30 per cent of building power usage going to waste, according to Schneider Electric. 

“Decarbonising buildings is a crucial step to tackle climate change,” said Kas Mohammed, VP of digital energy at Schneider Electric UKI. “There is a clear desire for this overhaul to happen, and investments like the one announced today can result in considerable savings of both money and carbon.”

Mohammed celebrated the emphasis on energy efficiency, stressing that “for too long the focus has been on the switch to renewables”, without accounting for the continuous waste of energy caused by current infrastructure. 

“Tracking and measuring our energy consumption with smart technology is an open goal for creating efficient public buildings,” he added. “Smart buildings, bristling with IoT sensors, can offer real-time data analytics and insights, allowing public sector facilities decision-makers to spend more wisely, whilst improving occupant experience.”

Environmental campaigners have welcomed the government’s push towards insulating buildings and installing green energy tech solutions, but some have criticised the failure to provide extra funding for upgrades for millions of households who face poverty this winter.

“As energy prices continue to spiral, it’s great that more public buildings will be insulated and kitted out with heat pumps,” said Greenpeace UK’s policy director, Doug Parr. “It’s just a shame that the Government hasn’t had the foresight to offer the same green upgrades to the homes of the millions of people that will be forced into poverty this winter, when they can no longer afford to pay their bills.”

Energy consultant Cornwall Insight said a typical annual gas and electricity bill in England, Wales and Scotland could reach £3,615 in the new year, which is hundreds of pounds more than previous predictions and could leave many British households facing the “most expensive winter in history”. 

Although customers are expected to see £66 taken off their energy bills in October and November and £67 each month from December to March, as part of a government support scheme, Derek Lickorish, chairman of energy company Utilita, said that households could burn through that money in just a few days, stressing that “the worst is yet to come”. 

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