Schools, hospitals, leisure centres, historic town halls and other public buildings across England could receive efficiency upgrades to help them slash energy bills, according to a raft of new measures announced by the government.
Up to £635 million of government funding will be made available to public sector organisations so they can install low-carbon heating such as heat pumps, and energy efficiency measures including double glazing and loft insulation.
The funding is available through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme with organisations such as NHS trusts, schools and local authorities able to apply for grants from September. Public sector bodies and taxpayers are expected to save an average of £650 million a year on energy bills over the next 15 years.
Upgrades are already under way through earlier rounds of the scheme, with 734 grants awarded to public sector organisations across England so far and phase 1 alone supporting up to 30,000 jobs in the clean heating and energy-efficiency sectors.
Business and Energy Minister Lord Callanan said: "We are already delivering upgrades to hundreds of public buildings across England, making them cheaper to run and saving taxpayers millions of pounds each year.
"By helping even more public sector bodies ditch costly fossil fuels, we are taking an important step towards a more sustainable future while driving economic growth across the country and continuing to support tens of thousands of jobs.
"Installing low-carbon heating systems, powered by cleaner, cheaper, renewable energy, will allow organisations to cut their use of costly fossil fuels where prices are being pushed up by pressures on global energy markets. It will support thousands of jobs, and also save taxpayers’ money as measures will ensure public buildings are cheaper to heat."
The scheme supports the aim of reducing emissions from public sector buildings by 75%, compared to 2017 levels, by 2037 – with guidance on how to apply for funding published this week.
This funding round of up to £635 million is the second part of an overall £1.425 billion due to be allocated through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme between 2022 and 2025.
Projects that have already received funding include Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which received more than £70 million to install water source heat pumps at Queens Medical Centre. Nottingham City Hospital installed air source heat pumps and fitted energy efficiency measures such as draughtproofing and double glazing, and Leeds City Council received £4.3 million to decarbonise primary schools and child day care centres.
The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme is delivered on behalf of the government by Salix Finance.
‘Much more required’
However, Greenpeace UK’s policy director, Doug Parr, said: “As energy prices continue to spiral, it's great that more public buildings will be insulated and kitted out with heat pumps. This will save cash-strapped councils and hospitals significant sums of money, while also cutting climate-wrecking emissions.
“It’s just a shame that the government hasn’t had the foresight to offer the same green upgrades to the homes of the millions of people that will be forced into poverty this winter, when they can no longer afford to pay their bills.
“In fact, this announcement comes just days after the government chose not to progress £1bn per year in funding to help some of the country’s poorest households curb their energy use. Any money for insulation and low-carbon heating is welcome but much more is required, and directed to the people that need it most.”