Government urged to ratchet up spending into household energy efficiency

The UK Government has been urged to implement a Home Improvement Plan to facilitate more than £5bn in annual spending to improve the energy efficiency of the UK's housing stock to contribute to the net-zero target for 2050.

Government urged to ratchet up spending into household energy efficiency

The Government has this week opened a new consultation into the Future Homes and Buildings Standard, which will run until 6 March 2024

A new report from thinktank IPPR has claimed that a minimum of 12 million homes in England alone will need to be fitted with energy efficient heat pumps, insulation and other measures between now and 2050.

The thinktank is calling for a new national strategy to focus on decarbonisation in the housing stock. A Home Improvement Plan would oversee financial instruments to implement low-carbon technologies for housing. According to IPPR, the Plan could facilitate the creation g a Retrofit Fund for England, which would see £5.3bn funnelled into retrofitting annually through to 2030 and then £3.5bn for the following 20 years.

The Plan would also increase Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards gradually for the private rented sector to an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) of at least B by 2030. Council tax rates or stamp duty relief could also be used to incentivise greater energy efficiency.

IPPR’s research fellow Joshua Emden said: “The government’s announcement on energy efficiency was a very welcome step in the right direction. But we also need to focus on scaling up the low-carbon technologies that will heat our homes, not just making them more efficient. 

A new Home Improvement Plan would maximise the potential for savings on energy bills by going further on the good work that’s been done on energy efficiency and pairing this with low-carbon heating technologies like heat pumps.”

The IPPR has called for action to accelerate the adoption of heat pump technologies – devices that draw in heat energy into the home from outside air – in the UK. Heat networks should also be prioritised, the thinktank adds.

Building blocks

The UK’s net-zero emissions target for 2050 will require every household to replace their heating system with lower carbon alternatives. It is estimated that this will take more than 1,000 years at the current rate, according to a Living Labs study.

Around 75% of the UK’s current heating demand in buildings is met by natural gas. The Government is currently supporting the installation of less than 2% of heat pumps required to meet the net-zero target.

The IPPR does welcome the £3bn energy efficiency funding announced in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Summer Economic Update, the thinktank estimates that around £10.6bn will be required annually from public and private investment to reach the level of adaptation required. Doing so would see the creation of 275,000 jobs in England alone and would also lower household energy bills.

The Committee on Climate Change has suggested that the UK would require 15 million homes to be fitted with heat pumps or hybrid heat pumps by 2035.

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng has claimed that the proposed Future Homes Standard would act as a catalyst for reducing household carbon emissions and would perform better than the zero-carbon scheme that was scrapped in 2015.

The Future Homes Standard is due to come into effect in the latter half of 2020, covering England only. In its current form, it includes a headline goal to reduce the carbon intensity of new builds by 75% by 2025, which ministers plan to deliver through fresh mandates for housebuilders on triple glazing, low-carbon heating systems, onsite renewable generation and energy-efficient building fabrics. The 75% target is down from an initial proposal of 80%. 

Matt Mace

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