UK axes energy efficiency taskforce as MPs press for price crisis support before winter

MPs have already expressed concerns that now would be an inopportune moment to scale back any efforts that would help homes and businesses weather the coming winter as the energy price crisis rolls on.

The BBC revealed over the weekend that members of the UK Government’s Energy Efficiency Taskforce have been advised that it will disband after just four meetings. They were told that the Taskforce’s work was “hugely valuable” and will now be “streamlined” into other ongoing government-led workstreams.

The Taskforce had been developing recommendations for improving the energy efficiency of homes, public sector buildings, corporate buildings and industry, in line with a Government target to cut absolute energy use by 15% by 2035.

Government spokespeople have told media representatives that this target still stands. But concerns have been raised about how it will be achieved, given the end of the Taskforce and with Rishi Sunak’s rollback on low-carbon heating and home energy efficiency targets, made last week, in mind.

Taskforce members

Lord Callanan and NatWest’s chief executive Alison Rose were selected in February to co-chair the Taskforce.

Further members were then announced in March, including National Infrastructure Commission chairman Sir John Armitt, Energy UK chief executive Emma Pinchbeck, Make UK chief executive Stephen Rippon and Green Finnace Institute chief executive Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas.

Government representatives included David Halpern of the Behavioural Insights Team and David Postings, the chief executive of UK Finance.

Former Conservative MP Laura Sandys, now chair of the Government’s Energy Digitalisation Taskforce, has stated that she is “disappointed” that the Taskforce has been disbanded and feels “confused” regarding the Government’s mixed messaging on energy efficiency.

Responding to the news, Natural England chairman Tony Juniper wrote:  “For decades it has been clear that the simplest no regrets step for cutting emissions is energy efficiency. It is also the policy that can most quickly help hard-pressed people on low incomes. I find, therefore, this to be a very surprising decision.”

Preparing for winter

Letters were sent to Energy Efficiency Taskforce Members as MPs on the Energy Security and Net-Zero Committee issued a fresh call for Ministers to set out their plans for shielding homes and businesses from persistently high energy prices ahead of the winter.

The Committee published a report on Saturday (23 September) expressing concerns that Ministers have not yet set out plans for financially supporting those struggling with high bills. Last winter, every home received £400 through the Energy Bills Support Scheme.

A similar blanket scheme is not in the works for this year as it was so costly to deliver. The Committee wants to see clear confirmation of a more targeted scheme sooner rather than later to allay worries ahead of colder weather. It is also pushing for all homes that missed out last year to receive payments “with immediate effect”.

The report sets out how a more targeted scheme could be rolled into existing initiatives such as the Warm Home Discount.

Emphasised in the report is the fact that, with more rapid and targeted energy efficiency support, there would be less of a need to set aside public funding for energy bill payments.

It calls on the Government to take more of a long-term, strategic approach to energy efficiency with a priority focus on the least energy-efficient and most vulnerable homes and small businesses. A key recommendation is for the Government to work with energy companies in developing a set social tariff, which would provide homes not only with lower bills but with free energy efficiency improvements.

Last winter, excess deaths attributable to living in cold, damp homes were up almost 50% year on year to 4,700. One in four British homes are still paying off their energy bills from last winter.

Committee Chair Angus Brendan MacNeil said: “With the challenge this winter threatening to be even worse, an announcement of support from the Government is long overdue. The mechanisms to provide assistance are already in place – the Government and energy firms must now get on and act to reassure struggling households that they are not being left to fend for themselves.”

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    Am I mistaken in believing that the energy industry is almost exclusively part of our private industry complex?
    The primary motive, indeed necessity, in private industry, is the generation of a continuing profit, which means, inevitably, that the consumer will always be the payer of energy prices which above cost levels; over which the consumer has no influence.
    To disband any means of assistance towards better efficiency of energy use in the home or business, seems to me to be contrary to this principle.
    Maybe these nonagenarian concepts are outdated!!!!

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