A scheme to help property owners ‘green up’ their houses and businesses could mean a £40 million bonanza for the struggling Midlands construction industry, the planners behind the project have said.
The ‘green new deal’ launched by Birmingham City Council was set up to help homeowners and businesses upgrade properties with energy-efficient fittings.
It will see up to 25,000 homeowners and 1,000 businesses offered the chance to have significant energy improvements made to their properties both through insulation and small scale generation, which in the long term will leave them in profit.
And consultant Matthew Rhodes said the scheme would not just benefit property owners, but the whole construction industry in the region.
Mr Rhodes is managing director of Encraft, the Leamington Spa-based consultant brought in to advise the council on the £40 million scheme.
He said the successful rolling out of the project would be a huge boost for a construction industry that has been reeling from the collapse in the property market and a string of high-profile scandals.
He said: “It’s about opportunities for West Midland firms. This is something that the Germans and the French have got at the moment yet we haven’t. But we have go all the skills and we have got the people needed.
“This creates massive opportunities, straight-forward opportunities, that’s if companies invest the money in certain technologies.”
He said the scheme was aimed directly at local construction and property firms which could deal with things like roofing and insulation. And he added that the barrier to entry in the green market was much lower than many companies thought.
“They don’t realise how small the investment is,” he said. “They have often already got the skills because the skills are just competent roofing or insulation. The reality is you can be trained to install a solar panel within a week.
“This is a real opportunity I still think people are waking up relatively slowly to the magnitude of this because they think ‘oh it’s green, it’s not going to be profitable’.
“But this is £30-40 million of economic activity. It’s very much about the local activity, about making sure this money is spent not in China or in Germany but in Birmingham.”
Encraft worked with Localise West Midlands for six months to design and secure funding for the retrofitting project being carried out in four areas of Birmingham.
It said it would retrofit more than 5,000 homes, save more than 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, and create 150 jobs. Encraft wrote the business plan with Localise West Midlands, developed the financial and supply chain models and are designing the retrofit products and services for the project. It will be launched initially as a pilot project within Aston, Lozells, Newtown and Northfield.
The scheme points people towards various streams of funding available for green projects from both the public and private sectors. The council is also operating a scheme which allows the cost of retrofitting to be paid back over future years using the savings made on energy bills and government bonus payments made for the use of microgeneration.
The Green New Deal is one of the first large scale UK projects to take advantage of the feed-in tariff scheme for microgeneration in the UK.
Mr Rhodes said the tariff was changing the way businesses could profit from the booming environmental technology sector.
He said: “I think there are massive opportunities now because the way the energy system in the UK is managed is changing radically. This represents a shift from a totally state managed market for low carbon technologies.
“Suddenly the lid has been taken off the market. This is a really good example of the public sector providing the confidence to say ‘we are serious about this in Birmingham’.”