Implement ‘emergency’ home energy efficiency plan, energy professionals urge UK Government

The UK has some of the least energy-efficient homes in Europe

The call to action is being made through the Energy Institute (EI) – a membership body for chartered professionals in the UK’s energy industry, representing more than 200 organisations and 20,000 individuals.

The EI has today (13 July) published the findings of a survey it conducted with 360 of those individuals, tracking their opinions on green policy and revealing their professional priorities in the face of the energy price crisis and climate crisis.

That survey found that, over the past 12 months, professionals’ confidence in the UK’s ability to meet its own energy and climate commitment has dropped. Just 30% of the respondents have confidence in the achievement of the overarching 2050 net-zero target. This lack of confidence springs from perceived policy gaps in several key areas, including green skills, low-carbon heat and energy efficiency.

On energy efficiency, 70% of the survey respondents do not believe energy efficiency policy has had any positive impact over the past year. Energy efficiency in domestic buildings was flagged as a particular cause for concern. 90% of respondents did not see any positive policy impact on reducing fuel poverty this past year.

Within the past 12 month, the £1bn Green Homes Grant closed with the majority of its budget unspent. Initiatives have remained in place for social housing and public sector buildings, but the Government has faced continued calls for a new national retrofit programme for homes. Such a programme has not been announced, despite chances for this to have happened – most recently, through the Energy Security Strategy and Energy Security Bill.

EI members are particularly concerned about missed opportunities to use improvements to home energy efficiency as a cost-effective means to respond to the energy price crisis. 44% of the survey respondents class energy efficiency as their preferred response to the energy trilemma (cost, security and sustainability).There is, therefore, widespread disappointment that Ministers are “neglecting” demand-side interventions, favouring instead new commitments for generation.

The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) recent progress report to Parliament named agriculture as the sector with the most significant net-zero policy gaps, and home energy use was a close second.

Calls to action

The EI’s report outlines four steps for policymakers to take, which are supported by most of those surveyed.

Firstly, it calls for additional subsidies for the lowest-income homes ahead of this winter. Ofgem is planning to lift its price cap this October for the second time this year. February saw the cap, which applies to dual-fuel household bills, rising by 54% to £1,971. October’s increase will take the cap to around £2,800. The Government confirmed in May that all UK homes will be eligible to £400 worth of grants towards energy bills this year, with vulnerable groups set to receive additional funding. It had initially pledged £200 in loans to all homes but this citizens’ groups campaigned for an increase.

This should be backed up with a national retrofit programme for all homes below energy performance certificate (EPC) rating C or lower. The Government’s vision is to have all homes meeting this threshold by 2035 but, as noted, the CCC does not believe current policy is sufficient to realise this.

Under the programme, the EI is recommending, the Government should support the creation of a central resource where tenants and homeowners can access tailored advice on retrofitting.  It should also run a behaviour change campaign, in the EI’s opinion. This is an idea that the Government has been hesitant to engage with, as the Conservative Party is generally reticent to be seen as telling the public how to choose their daily routines.

Lastly, the EI’s members want to see more joined-up policymaking on ensuring an adequate future skills pipeline for the green building sector. A lack of skilled professionals, with the necessary qualifications to carry out approved works, was cited by the Government as a key challenge in delivering the Green Homes Grant in the first instance.

EI trustee Dr Joanne Wade, also chief strategic adviser to the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), said: “The financial relief being provided ahead of this winter is welcome temporary help, in particular for those on the lowest incomes. But there’s a permanent fix, and it’s called home energy efficiency. It fixes bills, the climate and our import dependency. This is the eighth annual Energy Barometer and the eighth year in a row that the UK’s energy professionals have appealed for sustained action on energy efficiency. It can address all three crises simultaneously and permanently.”

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