Narec Distributed Energy consortium


North East England has one of the highest fuel poverty rates in the UK. Issues which lead to this include low income, cold weather and low efficiency homes. Specifically, there are issues with ‘hard to treat’ properties, either off-gas on non traditional build.  The Tarran Newlands and Wimpey No Fines prefabricated post war housing types, are particularly challenging to heat.

As a result, the UK’s National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) formed a project consortium with South Tyneside Homes and Homes for Northumberland to undertake thermal energy efficiency improvements in over 300 socially rented properties including Tarran Newlands, Wimpey No Fines and High Rise Flats. Narec Distributed Energy (a spin out company from Narec) are working on providing data monitoring throughout the project. The consortium has received £1.9m investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to carry out the improvement works, a monitoring and testing programme and an SME capacity building programme encouraging north east businesses to participate in the low carbon sector.

Aims and objectives:

The project exists primarily to upgrade over 300 hard to treat post war prefabricated socially rented homes with the intention to improve the lives of residents by lifting them out of fuel poverty and also to facilitate the use and development of technology in this field. Additionally, there is a large data monitoring aspect which involves working with residents, using data loggers, taking thermal images and carrying out air pressure tests. This data collection and analysis will allow for the levels of improvements to be quantified.


The project began in 2010 and will run to November 2013. The improvements to the properties have now been completed, and the homes are being monitored, and residents liaised with, to understand how much they have been improved, and the impacts on fuel poverty.

The property types and improvements are as follows:

The total project costs were: £3.8 million


With regard to the improvements of the homes, various challenged were encountered with improving the properties including access to properties, adverse weather conditions and technical difficulties with integrating new technologies into existing properties.

On the data logging side unfortunately a number of the temperature loggers were lost during the works, however there were enough different types of properties being monitored to still give a representative sample.

Next time GPS trackers would be put inside the data loggers. Additionally, in return for supermarket vouchers we would ask some residents to record their weekly electricity and gas usage.

Working with the residents has been at times a very challenging, but also very rewarding part of the project.  Many of the delays encountered with the project have been related to gaining access to properties, and gathering data from resident’s properties, which is a time consuming and sensitive process.


The properties have all being improved, which has left residents with far warmer properties and lower energy bills. The exact levels of improvement and the fuel poverty levels are currently being calculated, to be released in a report in November 2013. Additionally, South Tyneside Homes have carried out a wellbeing investigation of some properties, in association with the NHS. This is using the peer reviewed Lodex Wellbeing Tool (a validated measure of health and wellbeing). 

Contact details:
Name: Tom Bradley
Job title: Senior Project Engineer
City/town: South Shields, Jarrow and Blyth
Country: UK

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