The UK has the oldest draughtiest homes in Europe so it is vital they are insulated to tackle climate change and rising energy bills. Image: S.C. Air National Guard / Flickr
The government has unveiled its latest energy security plans to lay out how it intends to tackle climate change and reach net-zero – but the latest announcement on insulating homes has left campaigners cold.
The revised net-zero strategy, announced on what ministers dubbed ‘Green Day’, included no new money to make UK homes more energy efficient.
Instead the £1bn ECO+ scheme announced in December has been rebranded The Great British Insulation Scheme.
The scheme will upgrade 300,000 of the country’s least energy efficient homes with 80 per cent of households in council tax bands A to D qualifying for funding. There will also be incentives to switch from a boiler to a heat pump. The measures could save up to £400 a year on energy bills, the government said.
Already the oldest and draughtiest in Europe, insulating UK homes is vital to reduce the country’s carbon footprint and slash energy bills.
Cara Jenkinson, cities manager at climate solutions charity Ashden, said the government’s Green Day announcements actually “jeopardise” the UK’s climate change commitment to reach net-zero by 2050.
“The UK is particularly exposed to high energy prices because of our housing stock which literally leaks expensive fossil fuel energy out of walls, roofs and windows, and the piecemeal measures announced today fail to fix this,” said Jenkinson.
“This was a chance to reset policy on energy efficiency but instead the government is supporting further oil and gas exploration and committing £20bn to technologies such as carbon capture and storage which are unproven at scale.
“£20bn could retrofit millions of homes and provide the government and society with huge quick wins – tackling the energy, climate and cost of living crises at the same time. Unfortunately, the expected £1bn for the ECO+ scheme – unconvincingly branded the Great British Insulation scheme and already announced in November is all padding and no substance.”
Jess Ralston, head of energy at think tank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, agreed that “no new money for insulation will leave many households in the cold” while Royal Institute of British Architects called for a long-term National Retrofit Strategy.
If government subsidies fall short, households could have to fork out the cash to make their homes more energy efficient. But would households be willing to pay?
Are homeowners willing to pay?
As part of the Green Day announcements, the government published research which asked 1,000 homeowners if they were likely to invest in different types of insulation depending on whether they received a government subsidy.
The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero asked participants whether they would install insulation in their loft, walls or under the floor.
They were asked whether they would pay £1,500 for cavity wall insulation to save £140 a year on bills in a typical semi-detached home, or pay £20,000 for solid wall insulation to save £300 annually.
Insulating the loft would typically cost around £1,200 to save up to £100 a year while insulating roof space would cost £5,900 for the same saving. Finally, underfloor insulation would cost £2,700 for a £70 per year saving.
Each homeowner was then asked whether they were likely to carry out the work with no subsidy or government funding of either £750, £1,500 or £3,000 available.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, government funding increased the chances of homeowners insulating their homes.
The most popular reason for choosing not to invest in any of the insulation methods was not being able to afford the insulation costs. That would be a barrier for 70 per cent of home owners to invest in wall insulation and stop 56 per cent and 47 per cent investing in roof and underfloor insulation respectively.
Are landlords willing to pay?
Most renters are unable to modify their property without the landlord’s permissions so it is likely to be landlords who will decide whether to insulate properties to make them more energy efficient.
A poll from think tank Social Market Foundation (SMF) found 60 per cent of landlords would be unwilling to pay more than £250 toward the cost of improving the energy efficiency of a rented property.
SMF also quizzed homeowners, who were more likely to invest than landlords. Just over 40 per cent of homeowners said they would contribute more than £500 to state-funded energy efficiency work on their property compared to 30 per cent of landlords.
All residential properties are required to meet Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating C by 2035. All newly rented properties will be required to hit that mark from 2025 with every property on the market to be EPC or above by 2028.
But currently more than 60 per cent of private rented sector homes have an EPC rating of D or below, the think tank said.
Niamh O Regan, a researcher at the Social Market Foundation, said: “Too many British homes have poor energy efficiency, so the people who live in them are poorer and colder than they should be. And too many of those homes are rented out by landlords who aren’t willing to make their properties less draughty.
“Given the continuing growth of the private rented sector, the reluctance of many landlords to take action on energy efficiency is now a significant threat to Britain’s carbon reduction targets. The politicians who rightly see net-zero as key to our future should be working urgently on new measures to ensure rented properties become warmer and cheaper and more energy efficient.”
The National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA) has been campaigning for more cash to help landlords make their properties more energy efficient.
The lobby group previously proposed a cost cap of between £5,000 and £10,000 – tapered depending on the valuation of the property – to limit the amount landlords had to pay to renovate homes.
Ben Beadle, the chief executive of the NRLA, said earlier this year there was “no hope of the government meeting its proposed energy targets for the rental market” unless financial concerns are addressed.
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