For the first time, home energy efficiency dominated the news headlines following the Government’s Energy Security Strategy – and all for the wrong reasons: it was largely missing. But the reaction was so strong, the pressure is now on for Government action. UKGBC’s Head of Policy & Public Affairs, Louise Hutchins, shares a few reflections.
1. A Missed Opportunity
The Energy Security Strategy was deeply disappointing. It was crystal clear that this was the moment to embark on insulating the nation’s homes and tackle soaring energy bills. Yet it delivered little to stop heat seeping out of every window, wall and roof of the UK’s 29 million homes.
A credible Energy Security Strategy should have placed demand reduction at its heart. The cheapest cleanest energy is the energy you don’t need to buy or use. Nothing can be rolled out faster than loft insulation
2. Widespread criticism
The Energy Security Strategy was met with disbelief from many in the sector, from UKGBC member E.ON’s strongly worded statement to the Federation of Master Builders and Electrical Contractors Association.
Judging from the furious reaction from experts, NGOs and think tanks, the media headlines, opinion polls and editorials from the Times, FT and Guardian, the Government are alone in thinking that we have time to wait for a serious strategy to upgrade a nation of draughty homes.
3. Not an economic decision
According to the Telegraph, Rishi Sunak refused to fund just £200m for the expansion of the ECO scheme, let alone fulfill the outstanding £2bn funding promised in the 2019 manifesto for energy efficiency measures for the worst-off households.
The stimulus benefits of a nationwide retrofit programme are well understood. Analysis from the Government chaired Construction Leadership Group shows that for every £1 invested in energy efficiency, there is a £2 return to the economy.
Struggling households across the country are crying out for support that will reduce their energy bills and free up disposable income to help them face the wider cost of living crisis.
This clearly wasn’t an economic decision.
4. Baby steps when we need a giant leap
The Government claimed it already has an ‘ambitious strategy’ on energy efficiency. Yet installation numbers have collapsed by 70% over the last nine years.
Four elements of policy were announced, but nothing that can be mistaken for the comprehensive strategy our members are calling for to deliver nationwide home upgrades at scale. These include:
- A much-needed energy advice service will be launched by the summer to help households and small businesses navigate the process of upgrading their homes (replacing a scheme that the Government previously scrapped).
- The details of new energy performance standards will be published in May. Our Roadmap analysis shows we will need minimum standards to be introduced at point-of-sale for owner-occupied homes by 2028 in order to hit our climate commitments.
- Banks are being encouraged to develop green finance products for homeowners to upgrade their homes with an additional £10 million.
- A Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition worth £30m to help UK manufacturing jobs and revenues is welcome but won’t significantly reduce prices for consumers.
5. Pressure is building
In the week when the world’s climate scientists named energy efficiency as one of the lowest cost mission-critical ways to address the climate crisis we were left shaking our heads.
But the reaction to the Energy Security Strategy will have been a wake-up call.
The issue has never been higher on the public, political, and media agenda and it isn’t going away. UKGBC members from across the property, construction and energy industries from JLL UK Ltd and Grosvenor Property UK to Barratt Developments PLC, Landsec, and E.ON UK all know that the sector can’t meet its climate goals without more Government action to decarbonise homes and are prepared to speak up.
The next big tests for the Government will come with the forthcoming Energy Bill and Autumn Budget. We will all have to step up our campaigning.