A £505 million project to make homes more energy efficient in South West Wales is chronically understaffed, a review has found. The “homes as power stations” initiative is the largest of nine Swansea Bay city deal projects and aims to retrofit 7,000 council, housing association and private properties in Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire with the latest energy-saving, generating and storage technology.
Retrofitting is expensive but has major benefits for people living in the homes and for the environment. The homes as power stations project also aims to incorporate the latest technology into 3,300 new-build homes in the region.
The Neath Port Talbot Council-led project, which gained central Government approval in July, 2021, was reviewed by an independent team in July this year. The review said a lot of work was going on in the background but that visible progress appeared limited. It said: “The project has suffered, and continues to suffer, from a chronic lack of staffing in key posts that are currently subject to a recruitment exercise.”
On the plus side, the review said the senior staff who were in position were highly regarded and that the project had broad public sector, private and academic support. But reviewers gave it an “amber/red” status, meaning successful delivery was a concern and urgent action was needed.
“The review team sees a high degree of passion, subject fluency, and commitment to succeed, but delivery confidence is low owing to resourcing position,” it said.
The homes as power station initiative has a project manager and, very recently, a technical coordinator, but according to a report going before a joint committee which oversees the city deal, it still doesn’t have a supply chain lead officer – which is considered a key role – despite the post being advertised three times. The joint committee will be given an update on Thursday, November 10.
The project is expected to create 1,800 jobs over a 15-year timeframe and a demand among the housing sector for the latest energy-saving methods and technologies. An independent organisation will be used to evaluate the effectiveness and design of these technologies.
The private sector is a critical piece of the £505m jigsaw, given that it is expected to contribute £375m. Central government will invest £15m, with the remainder coming from public sector partners locally.
However, only £3.7m has been invested in the project so far, and just six jobs created. A further review is expected to be carried out next July.
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