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All aboard for Eco Homes tour

Over the next two weekends, a bus tour with a difference returns to the streets of Manchester. The Carbon Co-op is offering people the chance to visit the homes of eco-pioneers across Greater Manchester in a bid to raise the profile of what can be done to make homes more energy efficient.

Volunteers have come forward to open up their houses and show some of the measures they’ve taken to use less energy.  As well as wall insulation, triple glazing and wood burning stoves, the homes will also show how low power lighting, solar hot water panels and underfloor heating can help to cut energy bills.

Some of the homes have been retrofitted using funding from the Community Green Deal, a DECC-funded project which Manchester’s Carbon Co-op has used to create a network of eco show houses, retrofitted to achieve emissions reductions of 80%. Others have been retrofitted by the homeowners themselves.

The Carbon Co-op was set up in 2008 by a group of residents who saw the benefits of working as a team to make their homes more energy efficient, sharing experiences and knowledge, as well as reducing costs through bulk purchase.

Charlie Baker, who works for URBED (Urbanism Environment Design) and will be leading the tour, is also opening up his own home, a Victorian end terrace in Chorlton. It’s become something of a retrofit test bed, with Charlie and his partner using their own experiences to try and calculate how retrofitting homes can become more affordable.

Charlie is evangelical about the subject, and firmly believes that Governments must sit up and take notice.

Having so far spent over £45,000 retrofitting the house, it’s little surprise that Charlie is evangelical about the subject, and firmly believes that Governments must sit up and take notice.

He sees the Green Deal as a wasted opportunity, describing it as: ”a valiant effort that has been totally diluted.” The reason it has been shunned, he says, is because of the interest rates home owners were expected to pay on the loans they’d have to take out to have any energy efficiency work carried out.

“It is screamingly obvious that 8%, plus extra depending on how much you’re borrowing and how long you wish to borrow it, is a ridiculous sum of money,” he says.

The modelling that Charlie has been looking is based on borrowing money over 20 year at 3.75%, which he says is a realistic rate, achievable with a bit of Government subsidy.

“Given the cost to UK plc of not meeting our climate change reduction targets, the cost of energy security, the cost of trying to develop carbon capture storage… the incredible cost of developing nuclear in the meantime, and the decommissioning costs downstream … then the amount of money we are talking here to enhance that interest rate, and make it attractive to individuals, is actually barely the biscuit budget for the nuclear fuels industry,” he reasons.

In numbers terms, he believes that to stimulate retrofit across the entire country, £6 billion is all that is needed to be able to offer a 3.75% interest rate.

With this commitment, he says: “we could retrofit the entire country’s housing stock, keep a few hundred thousand people employed for the next 30 years, become market leaders globally, repatriate bits of the supply chain and (give the Government) a nice, steady way of making money.”

To encourage the Government to get involved, he says, more people need to come forward and show that it’s viable, as this will improve our understanding of how to retrofit homes efficiently, and bring down the costs.

“If you take the long term view, there is an inescapable logic of getting on and doing it,” he continues, “(especially) if you want to step off the endlessly ascending utility price escalator.”

Full details of the all the homes that can be visited are available here.