The Guardian/27 September 2017
Progress in making Britain’s homes more energy efficient has stalled, but the government could salvage billions in wastage by taking a few key steps, a new report with wide backing has found.
Ministers have also abandoned regulations for all new homes to be constructed to zero-carbon standards, leaving housebuilders with little obligation to build new homes to energy efficient specifications. As a result, the rapid improvements to efficiency in the UK’s housing stock seen before 2015 have stalled.
Now a new report, Affordable warmth, clean growth written by Frontier Economics, has won the backing of more than 20 organisations, including green campaigners, thinktanks, companies selling insulation and services, and the energy companies E.ON and Npower.
The 88-page report recommends:
- reinstating a requirement for new homes to be zero carbon by 2020
- bringing all existing homes up to an energy performance rating of C, midway on the current A to G scale, by 2035
- assisting all low-income households to achieve such a rating by 2030, through subsidies
- changing stamp duty to offer rebates on buying homes that are improved to a good standard
- tax breaks for private sector landlords who install efficiency measures, such as insulation
- 50% subsidies to social sector landlords, such as housing associations, which make their housing stock more energy efficient
In the decade from 2004 to 2015, gas consumption for typical dual fuel households fell by 37% and electricity usage by 18%. This was in part because of the installation of insulation, but also improvements in technology, such as new boilers and new lightbulbs.
However, after the demise of the green deal in 2015, there has been a halving of the annual investment in domestic energy efficiency, and an 80% decline in the number of improvement measures installed in homes between 2012 and 2015.
This leaves huge scope for cost savings, which could benefit UK consumers to the tune of more than £7bn if improvements were carried out, or the equivalent of six Hinkley Point C nuclear reactors, according to a recent report by the UK Energy Research Centre.
Gus O’Donnell, the former Cabinet secretary, said: “In a world where it is difficult to guarantee getting a return above inflation on any investment, it makes sense to invest in improving the energy efficiency of your home. This cuts bills, allowing you to stay warm and help tackle climate change. Government needs to do more to encourage this investment, and this report provides some practical proposals on how they can do it.”
Lord Deben, chairman of the statutory Committee on Climate Change, also backed the proposals, saying they should be adopted as part of the government’s “clean growth” strategy, soon to be announced by ministers. “If housebuilders were required [to build homes to higher standards] the cost of doing so would shrink. This would benefit homeowners.”
He said fitting existing houses with insulation, such as modern cavity wall insulation and better windows, would also benefit poorer families, and be a cost-efficient way of improving health and lives.