Originally published 23rd August 2022

Decarbonisation doesn’t say what it does on the tin, says Howard.

At Tai Calon, we are decarbonising the homes we manage, which links to the new Welsh Homes Quality Standard 2023. Personally, I thought it was a great word, decarbonisation, because in the words of the advert, “It does what it says on the tin”. Well, I thought that until my Mum asked me how my job was going.

I said we’re doing lots of decarbonisation work and she said, “What’s that?” So I explained. “A major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Wales is from residential dwellings and as a consequence of the report “Better Homes, Better Wales, Better World”, the Welsh housing sector is leading the UK on decarbonising the homes that they manage.

That will be the sector’s significant contribution to mitigating the impact of climate change by reducing the levels of carbon dioxide equivalence being emitted into the atmosphere. So we are, with help from Welsh Government, investing in external wall insulation and a variety of new technologies that will significantly reduce the reliance on fossil fuels”.

Slightly exasperated by listening to my long and complex explanation, my mother said, “Oh, I can see where the word decarbonisation comes from now.” Realising that I hadn’t given the entire picture, I pressed on with why we are doing decarbonisation at Tai Calon.

“Yes, the exciting thing is it’s more than just improving the homes. It is also about making the homes cheaper to heat.”

At Tai Calon, we are very proud that our rents are some of the lowest in the country, demonstrating our focus on the affordability of living in one of the homes we look after. Consequently, if we can make the cost even lower through these energy efficiency measures, then that sits well with our overall objectives of driving customer satisfaction. And the sooner we can do it, the better, especially given the current cost of living crisis!

I explained that Tai Calon will need to spend over £100 million to deliver this programme! Mum, being my mother, cut straight to the chase. “So, as Welsh Government are supporting you, I assume they are paying for it?”

Slightly annoyed at the interruption, “Well, not exactly, but they are very keen.” I went on, “A lot of what we are doing is explained in detail in the new Welsh Homes Quality Standard 2023, in the bit about affordable warmth, environmental impact and all that jazz.”

Noting an increased level of enthusiasm in her voice, she noted, “now, that phrase, Welsh Homes Quality Standard, yes, that makes sense”. Then letting out a long sigh, “Anyway, Howard, I interrupted you. Please tell me more about this decarbonisation thingy-wotsit?”

“Er…ok”, I said, “so that money, which may have to be funded by Tai Calon tenants, and don’t get me going on that now, I will ring you next week, anyway that £100m will create a significant number of new jobs in new green industries in Blaenau Gwent. That can only serve to help improve the prosperity of the region and the inward investment that is needed”.

Getting into my stride, I went on. “So we are talking to colleges around training for new jobs and engaging with local businesses to get them on board with all this work that we need to do”. Staring wistfully into the distance, I concluded, “If ever there was a moment in the housing association movement’s history when it is seen to make a profound difference, then this could be one of those”.

“And Mum, that’s not the end of it. Do you know that bloke, professor Sir Michael Marmot? In 2020, he chaired an advisory group for the UK Committee on Climate Change and produced the report titled “Sustainable Health Equity: A Net Zero UK“. It reported that living in a cold home that is difficult or expensive to heat increases the risk of exposure to cold and is associated with a variety of health impacts, especially respiratory infections. Respiratory infections are the leading cause of excess winter mortality.” “Yes”, I shouted, “Decarbonisation can save lives!”.

Mum was quiet for a few moments and then said, “if you ever fancy a career change, DO NOT go into advertising”. “Howard, how can something so profound be labelled with a word that very few people understand, apart from your housing friends, be called decarbonisation? Why don’t you call it the better homes, better economy, better jobs, and saving lives initiative. Doesn’t that say what it does on the tin?”

“Thanks, Mum”

Howard Toplis – Chief Executive