Environment

Billions added to British energy bills due to failure to properly insulate homes, study finds

Government inaction is costing Brits billions – a burden that is disproportionately borne by the country’s renters

More insulation for homes is part of the Government's fight against fuel poverty

The government is not insulating homes fast enough. "Insulation" by Jack Amick is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The UK’s slow progress on home insulation is costing bill payers an eye-watering £3.2 billion per year, new research has found.

No one likes a draughty house. But analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has revealed just how much inadequate insulation really costs us.

If the average UK home was upgraded one energy efficiency band – from an Energy Performance Certificate rating of D to a rating of C – each consumer would save £200 annually, the think tank found.

For the 4.4 million homes rated E or F, the bill payer would save even more: some £400 or £550 respectively.

Government inaction is costing Brits billions – a burden that is disproportionately borne by the country’s renters, said Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at ECIU.

“Millions of British bill payers are still counting the cost of inaction and low investment in insulating homes over the past decade. Renters are in a particularly difficult situation given they don’t have any control over improving the warmth of their homes,” he said.

“Bills may have dropped slightly, but they are due to rise again ahead of winter when having a properly insulated home is the difference between affordable and astronomical energy bills.

The government previously had a scheme to force private landlords to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. But prime minister Rishi Sunak scrapped the scheme in November last year, just one of a series of screeching net zero U-turns.

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Then home-secretary Suella Braverman said that net zero plans – including phasing out gas – risked “bankrupting” the British people.

But the UK’s reliance on gas and insulation failures simply make bills more expensive, said Cran-McGreehin.

“The UK has been particularly badly hit by the crisis because we’re so dependent on gas for electricity and home heating,” he said.

“Shifting to net zero means building more British renewables and insulating more homes and so becoming less dependent on foreign gas imports.”

Progress to insulate Britain’s homes has been agonisingly slow. The number of homes insulated through the government’s four landmark insulation schemes dropped around 40% in a single year, the New Economics Foundation think tank reported in January.

Bills aside, the environmental consequences of such delays are huge. Some 80% of the buildings that will be occupied in 2050 already exist today, so decarbonising them will be a big part of tackling climate change.

But Westminster–backed schemes delivered just 16% of the insulation measures needed last year for the UK to stay on track to meet its 2050 net zero commitments.

Speaking to the Big Issue earlier this year, architect Kevin McCloud urged the government to urgently retrofit homes.

“We have the solutions, it’s just about making them accessible and affordable to all,” he said. “The energy efficiency and green credentials of our homes have a huge impact on our wallets and our planet, as well as the UK’s leadership on climate. It’s time for our leaders to listen and act.”

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