Securing funding is only the first step in public sector decarbonisation

John Cartwright, Business Unit Director at Wates
Home Insights Securing funding is only the first step in public sector decarbonisation

As momentum gathers on the Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS), John Cartwright, Business Unit Director at Wates, shares his thoughts on the key considerations of public sector bodies awaiting a decision on Phase 3c and preparing to apply for Phase 4.

In the journey to net zero, securing funding is the first of many steps, and arguably the most important. However, if you’re a public sector body that has secured funding through the Government’s PSDS Scheme, you must look beyond the funding application to the longer-term strategy of your energy efficiency plans.

In the coming weeks, successful applicants of the PSDS Phase 3c will receive a share of £230m for this financial year, forming part of the total £1.425bn. This funding significantly adds to Phase 1 and 2, which provided £1bn and £75m respectively to help reduce carbon emissions from public sector buildings by 75% by 2037. For those thinking ahead to how they take forward their decarbonisation ambitions – whether through Phase 3c or Phase 4 – there are many things to consider.

Timely delivery is paramount

If you have applied for Phase 3c funding and are expecting a decision imminently, you will only have this financial year to use your finance. There is due to be further Phase 3c funding announced in the autumn, available in the 2025/26 financial year. Once funding is granted it must be used in the next 12 months, which limits the amount of planning time. Successful applicants of Phase 3c should be readying themselves to hit the ground running.

Having worked in energy efficiency retrofit for a number of years, our experience has taught us that the foundation to planning successful energy efficiency measures is understanding your assets and having good quality data. It sounds simple, but having a good handle on how your buildings operate means the best starting point to planning retrofit work, which is so important when there’s a deadline to use your funding.

Knowing where to start

The second phase of the PSDS brought in more of a focus on the whole building. Considering a building in context, its age, how it’s used, its occupants and potential seasonal variations of use, all feed into this strategy. Reliance on fossil fuels is the main focus for the funding, but technologies installed need to harmonise with the building’s wider context.

As an example, retrofitting a building with new insulation will reduce heat loss but it will also affect ventilation. To avoid excessive moisture as a by-product of an airtight building, you need to ensure a building has adequate ventilation. Likewise, you would have to weigh up the cost and benefit of each new option, i.e. is there more benefit to heat pumps or electric heating? The answer to that very much depends on the building.

In 2021, we launched the Wates Innovation Network (WIN) Portal to support these decisions. The WIN Portal is a resource for our customers to access a database of leading innovators, each one a provider of green technology or services that support a more sustainable future. Knowing where to start isn’t easy, and the WIN Portal helps to navigate these decisions to ensure funding is spent in the best way possible – we’ve seen lots of successes for some of our customers including for some of the UK’s largest high street banks.

Balancing the present and the future

All net zero strategies must be cohesive and manage to prioritise the here-and-now without taking an eye off the future. This is especially true when funding deadlines are concerned. Guidance on applying for Phase 4 of the PSDS is expected to be published in the summer, but public sector bodies need to be preparing for this now. With the right planning and a contracting partner on the right public sector frameworks, managing both Phase 3c and Phase 4 is more than possible.