Greater Manchester residents to access funding to cut bills in 'pioneering' project for UK

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Greater Manchester residents will be able to access funding for home upgrades that will cut energy use and lower bills, in a wide-ranging initiative believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The lack of finance is currently a "major stumbling block" for home-owners wanting to install things like insulation, shading or heat pumps, according to Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Green Finance Institute (GFI).

Their "new model" of funding is designed to enable homeowners and landlords to access various new sources of private and blended finance to fund energy efficiency upgrades, which would lower emissions of climate heating carbon dioxide as well as energy bills.

It comes as the UK grapples with a cost of living crisis, with energy bills set to soar to £3,500 in January, and in the wake of a record heatwave made at least ten times more likely by climate change.

Councillor Martyn Cox from GMCA said "lessening how reliant our homes are on high carbon fuel" was a key part of the region's climate plan as it seeks to hit carbon neutrality by 2038.

The authority hopes the scheme, to be rolled out from December, will help upgrade the energy efficiency of around 60,000 homes a year for three years.

Buildings are responsible for 25% of carbon emissions in the UK, which need to be virtually eliminated in order to reach the country's statutory target of net zero emissions by 2050. But local authority budgets in England fell this year in real terms.

The shortfall demonstrates the need to tap into other sources of money to fund the green transition, the group says.

'Significant'

The variety of types of homes and upgrades available necessitates a broad "portfolio of financial products that complement this and support energy-efficiency improvements", GFI's Emma Harvey told Sky News.

Some tools will be new for the UK, while some already exist but will be scaled and tailored.

They include the UK's first "Property Linked Finance" scheme, which attaches borrowed money to the property rather than the homeowner. It is designed to alleviate fears about payback times for items with high upfront costs, such as heat pumps, shading on windows or moving plug sockets above flood lines.

The project will also help homeowners access green mortgages, which can finance the cost of improvements or lower interest rates on loans for purchases of energy-efficient homes. The GFI hopes that green rental agreements will incentivise landlords to increase the rental property's energy efficiency band rating before the regulatory deadline of 2025-2028.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor at green think tank E3G, who is not involved with the initiative, said the "scale and range of initiatives included in this programme - and the focus on spurring private finance - is significant and fairly novel".

Previous green home pilots tended to focus on social housing, she said.

"Cracking the 'owner occupier' tenure has traditionally been much harder, due to the lack of support, incentives, subsidies or regulations to support households who are classed as 'able to pay' - although given soaring costs of living this is increasingly questionable," added Ms Phillips.

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