Making low carbon technologies accessible for all

A scheme to bring renewable energy to deprived neighbourhoods in the north east of England is helping people to heat and power their homes while giving a boost to the region’s economy. The Low Carbon Pilot, based in Sunderland, has introduced biomass and solar power to ‘hard to reach’ housing estates and provided training to local SMEs so they can respond to the growing demand for green technologies.

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The Low Carbon Pilot introduced biomass and solar power options to ‘hard to reach’ households © Welsh Government The Low Carbon Pilot introduced biomass and solar power options to ‘hard to reach’ households © Welsh Government

" By looking at more efficient ways and means of generating energy locally, we can help not only the environment but also our bank balances. This innovative project is all about taking a long-term view and 'investing to save'. It is about saving on our fuel bills and reducing carbon emissions. This is keeping residents and their homes warm, results are being monitored, and the project is sharing its results and its technology with businesses so they too can look ahead, invest and see the opportunities that are out there. "

Councillor Graeme Miller, Sunderland City Council's Portfolio Holder for Health, Housing and Adult Services

The project was responsible for creating the city’s first biomass network which is now being used to provide heat and hot water to more than 100 properties. Residents, many of whom are elderly, are also benefitting from measures designed to save them money on their fuel bills. Properties have been equipped with solar panels, double glazed windows, loft insulation and thermal cladding. 

Tackling fuel poverty

Low Carbon Pilot worked closely with a registered social landlord and a specialist in renewable energies and green technologies to tackle fuel poverty and to ensure long-term viability of the initiative. Efforts to engage with residents and encourage them to use the new technologies in an efficient way were central to the project. 

One-to-one advice and education was provided to households so that they could get the most out of the biomass heating system and their solar powered installations. Support will continue to be offered to ensure people are making the most of their new energy options throughout the entire year. Early results revealed that project beneficiaries are saving around EUR 80 per year on their heating and hot water bills and about EUR 67 per year on their electricity bills, however further analysis has indicated that the savings in the long run could be even higher. 

Meeting demand

A local renewable energy company delivered a package of support and consultancy to local SMEs in order to help them improve their capacity, skills and environmental management. 73 SMEs and 128 employees working in the energy installation and construction sector received training which has enabled them to upgrade their knowledge of the installation and maintenance of low carbon and renewable technologies. 

Assistance in this part of the project focused on improving the environmental performance of SMEs and was delivered through renewable energy feasibility studies, MCS  coaching sessions for installation companies, energy efficiency audits and one-to-one ISO14001 consultancy. Local companies are now in a better position to access the growing renewable energies sector. 

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Low Carbon Pilot” is EUR 5 205 715, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 2 602 858 from the Operational Programme “North East of England ERDF Competitiveness and Employment” for the 2007 tov2013 programming period. Work falls under the priority axis “Business Growth and Enterprise”.

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