‘Far too slow’: MPs investigate UK’s energy efficiency progress

MPs have launched an inquiry which will examine the Government's approach to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in the UK, with current progress deemed as "far too slow".

The two-month inquiry will look at current progress within domestic, commercial and public-sector buildings, and whether current energy efficiency measures are enough to help the UK meet its Fourth and Fifth Carbon Budgets.

The BEIS Committee will focus on action to upgrade the energy efficiency of fuel-poor homes, as well as efforts to ensure growth and productivity is boosted by energy-efficient commercial and public buildings.

BEIS Committee Chair Rachel Reeves MP said: “Energy efficiency is vital to cutting the costs of energy for homes and businesses and is a cost-effective method of reducing our carbon emissions. In spite of this, and the inclusion of energy efficiency targets in the Clean Growth Strategy, the current rate of improvements to buildings is far too slow.

“Our inquiry will examine the Government’s approach to energy efficiency, whether it is showing enough ambition in helping to tackle fuel poverty and in encouraging homeowners, businesses and landlords to upgrade. We will also be keen to explore the additional measures which may be needed to deliver energy efficiency improvements that could bring significant benefits for individuals, the economy and the environment.”

Regional divides

The launch of the inquiry comes on the same day as a report found that UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy is masking stark regional divides, with regions such as the North of England and East Midlands being left behind. Some of these regions are suffering from low energy efficiency ratings, researchers from Imperial College London found – the cost of heating, combined with lower average incomes in these areas mean that fuel poverty rates are particularly high.

In April 2018, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) entered into force, imposing new rules on both domestic and commercial properties within the private rental sector.

The Government has made energy efficiency a major focal point of its Clean Growth Strategy, in light of reports which suggest the UK will not meet its 2030 goals to boost energy efficiency in its housing stock until the end of the century.

Last month, Antoinette Sandbach MP wrote an exclusive blog for edie on the importance of energy efficiency in the UK, a year on from the publication of the Clean Growth Strategy.

The BEIS Committee is inviting written submissions on the following points.

  • Overarching approach: Who should have responsibility to pay for energy efficiency? Should energy efficiency be considered a national infrastructure priority?
  • Existing housing stock: Are the Government’s targets to improve the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings of our existing housing stock ambitious enough? Is there sufficient support in place to deliver targets for all homes to be EPC band C by 2035?  Is the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) an adequate mechanism to ensure fuel-poor homes are upgraded to EPC band C by 2030?
  • Private rented sector: Are the Government’s private rented sector regulations for energy efficiency for both residential and commercial buildings ambitious enough? Are there implementation and enforcement challenges that need to be remedied?
  • Regional disparities: Are there regional disparities, including in off-grid areas, in the delivery, costs and uptake of energy efficiency measures? If so, how could these be overcome?
  • Non-domestic sector: What does existing evidence indicate about progress being made towards greater energy efficiency in public and commercial buildings?
  • Lessons to learn: What lessons can be learnt from the devolved administrations on delivering energy efficiency measures?


Submissions can be made on the Committee’s website. The deadline is Thursday 17 January 2019.

George Ogleby

Comments (5)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Wasting 11 BILLION on pointless "smart" meters doesn’t help. This money could have been much better spent ensuring every home in Britain had proper insulation (floors, walls and roofs), modern efficient central heating systems, even giving every home with a hot water tank a free tank jacket and giving every home 6 LED light bulbs.

    Proper energy efficiency would save UK Households far more money and make every home warm and dry, no one in the 21st century should be living in a damp home or having to pay over the odds to heat their home properly

  2. Duncan Lochhead says:

    It’s high time for such an inquiry and more activity to catalyze a wave of energy efficiency improvement in our older building stock. I will be highlighting two possible areas of improvement on the committee’s website:
    1. The MEES legislation is pushing the private sector in the right direction, but equivalent encouragement in the social housing sector is a current gap.
    2. Nurturing innovation from manufacturers in energy efficiency solutions would also help. As a manufacturer (Dulux) working to launch a coating with insulating properties, I know how hard it is to encourage adoption of new solutions.
    At least the subject is under scrutiny and being discussed! Thanks for the article.
    Duncan Lochhead, Commercial Sustainability Manager at AkzoNobel

  3. Iain Whyte says:

    We have also seen many houses given inappropriate insulation by contractors who don’t understand how old walls of our Victorian housing stock work. Putting a non-vapour permeable insulation on old brick walls is likely to cause significant damage which may not become apparent for years. There needs to be a formal system in place to ensure that opportunistic installers seeking to maximise profit from yet another Government sponsored initiative don’t end up ruining the country’s housing stock.

  4. Keiron Shatwell says:

    @Iain – agree, there have been reports of unsuitable cavity wall insulation being used on the West Coast that causes damp problems due to our very wet climate. We have seen so many of these government scheme abused due to p*55 poor oversight (NI’s RHI for instance). Whatever system is used it must be properly thought out and not another knee jerk, vote winning reaction.

  5. Richard Phillips says:

    Very good points made below, particularly on the Smart Meters (Heaven help us!).

    Energy efficiency in the built environment concerns the physical reality of keeping warm at the least cost of energy expenditure. A physical reality.

    Heat is to be provided in the most advantageous fashion, and then inhibited from escaping. Inhibited; it will all eventually be dissipated. The physics is concerned with slowing down the escape rate.

    This is thus concerned with matters of a physical nature, involving science and engineering.

    Review of the membership of the BEIS Committee reveals that none have any graduate qualifications, or, apparently lower studies, in science or engineering. Nor do we have a Minister for Energy or a Secretary of State
    who has ever been better qualified.

    The document gives no hint of the difficulty and complexity of carrying out work on the older housing stock of the country, indeed in most cases it might be economic to pull most of it down and start again. The inappropriateness of Ministerial knowledge to the post held is most glaring in these technical areas. The ministerial post should be professionally qualified, and have a spokesperson in the Commons.

    Richard Phillips

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