Back to: In the home agenda
Kaela: So our next speaker is Jonathan Atkinson from Carbon Coop. And it's a community and not for profit organisation looking at community and not for profit approaches to making changes happen, I'll let him explain who is really, because I've mucked it up.
Jonathan Atkinson: Thank you very much. Hi there, yeah, I'm Jonathan, and I'd just like to say what real privilege it is to be here today to speak to you about what we do. I'm going to be talking about community-led approaches to retrofit. And just unpacking that word just very slightly, retrofit is retrospectively fitting energy efficiency improvements to homes, so its energy efficiency, insulation, solar panels, all kinds of things. What I'd like to say is that the rhetoric is happening in the UK. It's possible, we have the technology, we have a great workforce out there already working in people's homes, but it's happening on a small scale. So the challenge is really to scale that much bigger, and for that we need government support and the support of local authorities and the private sector, but we also need the involvement of citizens of householders in making that happen just like today.#
A little bit about my story. I come from Middlesbrough and I went to Manchester and did Climate Science at University. What I learned about climate science drove me to do what I'm doing in my career now, but I also felt a little bit frustrated within science that I couldn't affect real change, so I got involved in cooperatives. Now, cooperatives are businesses that trade for the mutual benefit of their members, and a Food Co-op is a really simple example of that. People club together in an area, they bulk-purchase food, and they do so to reduce prices. It's a cooperative mutual benefit. Carbon co-op, our key driver is around climate change and that's why we founded Carbon Co-op more than 10 years ago now, we've been going that long. The fundamental thing around Carbon Co-op is that it's around householders and citizens coming together to make big carbon reductions in their home energy usage, and mostly that means retrofit. That's what I'm going to be talking about today, what we've been doing.#
Now we're a social enterprise, not for profit. That doesn't mean we don't make a profit or a surplus, what it means is that any we do generate, we put back into the business and back into our our mission which is around climate change. So we're trading, but we're trading for social-environmental good. We're not a small organisation, we have 30 members of staff, we turn over more than half a £1,000,000 a year and we've got over 200 members, members who are all retrofitting their homes. We also committed to fairness and energy justice. And what that means, very simply, is that those that have more resources and can do more should do more. So what I'd like to do just to start us off is to really share some of the stories of the people that are our members and to give you a bit of an insight into what retrofit means for them. This is Lorenzo and Paul, a young family based in South Manchester. They have been retrofitting their home over many years. They don't have loads of money, so they're doing it incrementally. a stage a time. They've done triple glazed windows, they've insulated a wall or two, they've done stuff to their loft, and they're moving through it slowly. Yes? [inaudible question 00:03:28] so yeah, that's a good a good point, and we'll talk about different ways of approaching it. Some people do go down a DIY approach and they skill themselves up, but mostly because of the scale, the works involved in some of the risks, they will often get trades people involved. Yeah. Some of them might be specialists and some might be ordinary people who already work on homes and they just need a little bit more knowledge and expertise. So, yeah, with the triple glazed windows they got specialist suppliers to come in. We've been helping them with bits of advice and referencing tradespeople, recommending trades people. Yeah, so they're going through incrementally, but they're going towards their kind of whole house retrofit aim.#
his is Eddie. Eddie's a retired tutor from further education. He's really committed to doing stuff around climate change and stuff in his environment. But you really didn't know where to start on his home, so we've really helped him in a lot of ways. With architects that we work with, we designed a whole package of works for him. We found the contractors to do the work, and we were also lucky enough to be able to offer him a 0% interest loan. The works on his house costs £35,000 and his loan was around £30,000 so he did put some of the money in himself, but obviously the loan he's paying back over time with some of those bill savings. He's saving more than £1000 a year on his bills, and there was an incredible impact on his home in terms of comfort and warmth.#
Final example is Andy Hamilton. He lives in rural Lancashire. He didn't need our help, he's a retired academic and builder, and over the last forty years of living in this house he's incrementally done a lot of the work himself to retrofit this property. He's got an air source heat pump, which you've heard a lot about recently, and he's got solar panels. He's also has a wood burning stove, and he grows would in his own woodland out the back. He's very lucky in that sense. But we love the fact that he is contributing his expertise to our co-op, and especially round air source heat pumps which are very rolled out in very small numbers at the moment but we'd like to see that ramp up. So these different householders, different houses, different approaches, but all working towards the same aim. All part of our co op and we're helping them all.#
So you might well ask why is retrofit happening? And as an advocate, my take on it is that the companies offering retrofit on a large scale are not trusted by everyday people. Householders find it hard to find those builders with the right skills in their communities. It's not normal. It's not the sort of thing that your friend or neighbour, or someone in your street has done so it doesn't feel like a thing that you would do. And people see examples of poor work in the media and the press, and they're put off and rightly so. For me, for us, retrofit policy in the UK is too top down, and when government has acted in this area, it's not done so in an effective way. We think every house is different. Well, the experience shows that. But government sees one size fits all, and the approach is kind of monolithic. The focus is too often on money and not often enough on quality, comfort and carbon, and in some quite tragic cases, on safety as well. The large companies the government feels comfortable working with, you might trust them to build a hospital, but would you trust them to go into every single home in the UK? Well, experience says no, and it hasn't worked. For us, good ideas spread from the bottom up, like me. And what I mean by that? I mean something that works successfully in one area can be successfully replicated from the bottom up into lots of other areas. The co-op movement is a good example. One shop started in Rochdale in the 1840s, now co-op supermarkets all around the country in every area. The school strike started with one schoolgirl in Sweden, millions of people now involved all around the around the world. An example not on here, but I'd like to make, is around the Rotary Club. Business networking clubs, people coming together, investing in charitable fundraising. There are 1.2 million members of Rotary around the world. 35,000 clubs. It started in one club in Chicago in the 1920s. Now, if you're trying to design that from the top down basis, you say, "how can we have clubs wanted 1.2 million people around the world?" You would never do it from the top down basis, but it started from one, and it spread from the bottom up. And I think that's the same approach we should be talking to retrofit. Start small in the locality and branch out. Just an example, who would you trust to refurbish your home? A leaflet comes to the door for a government scheme or community energy fire from a organisation based in your town or city. A contractor that's driven 200 miles to your door, or a local firm down the street that you know very well and you can go to when things go wrong? Or a rep who turns up at the door with slick sales pitch or a friend and neighbour who's giving you a recommendation? For me, it's all about local. It's all about social enterprise approaches. These are local, these are accountable, you can get involved in their governance, the're trusted, they're cooperative in the broadest sense of the term, working with lots of different partners, and it's community wide, bringing those that can afford to do this work, and those who can't, and sharing expertise. For me, that's a competitive advantage of the community led approach.#
So what's our wish list in this area? I think first and foremost, government needs to label retrofit a national infrastructure priority, and when that happens, it will open all sorts of doors in the Treasury, around cost benefit analysis, around funding, all that sort of thing. And that means a community lead nationwide retrofit programme that the government declares. A reformed ECO, energy company obligation. All your energy suppliers, whether it be in N-power, Aeon whoever, they're all obligated to put some money into energy efficiency. But the system simply isn't working. Government needs to stand up to industry lobbying and make that system work so that we can fund retrofit through those energy bills. Polly was talking about earlier,. I think local authorities have a role here in issuing zero interest loans for householders. And the integration into all the other things that Polly was talking about heat networks and local innovation and all that sort of thing. Retrofit apprenticeships so that local firms are developing highly skilled, well paid jobs and investing in local communities, local economic benefit for all. 0% VAT on retrofit. It's absolutely crazy that it's 20%. It was 5% in the past. We really should be incentivising this for people. And we heard about Ofgem, the regulator, creating a definition for community leads. People that you trust in.#
So hopefully I've explained that retrofit is possible, it is happening in local communities, we have the skills, we have the technology, we have the opportunity, we just need government to create that level playing field and to trust people like yourselves. Householders to come up with solutions. Thank you very much.
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