In the UK, homes account for 13% of emissions, with this rising to 22% when electricity usage is taken into account. The average household energy consumption has fallen by 17% since 1990 but more still needs to be done to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.
Retrofitting involves the addition of new features to older housing such as better insulation, double or triple glazed windows and blocking drafts. As well as reducing energy consumption retrofitting can be hugely beneficial to the economy:
Improving a building’s energy efficiency has a considerable impact on its energy bills. The government (HM Government, 2017) estimates that upgrading a house from Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band E to band D will reduce energy bills by £380 per year.
Improvements in energy efficiency would also bring about higher levels of growth. A report by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (2017) shows that for every £1 invested in the energy efficiency of homes, GDP would be increased by £3.20. This makes it a more cost-effective way of stimulating the economy than cutting VAT or fuel duty, or investing in infrastructure projects such as HS2.
There is also potential for significant job creation. Cambridge Econometrics (2014) conducted research into retrofitting potential in the UK and found that insulating 6 million homes by 2025 would create 108 000 jobs across the UK.
The economy would be more resilient economy because it would be less reliant on fossil fuels. This means it would be less at risk to sudden changes in fuel prices.
The installation of loft and cavity wall insulation would reduce the health impact of cold homes. Community Action on Fuel Poverty estimates that the UK spends £22 billion in NHS treatment for cold related admissions.
The 2017 Conservative Manifesto recognised the economic benefits of retrofitting and committed to “improve the energy efficiency of existing homes, especially for the least well off, by committing to upgrading all fuel poor homes to EPC Band C by 2030”. However, the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group (EEIG) argue that to achieve this the government needs to double its annual investment to £1.3 billion.
What can I ask my MP to do to support more energy efficient buildings?
You could ask your MP to write to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy to highlight the economic benefits of retrofitting and suggest that it be incorporated into the government’s industrial strategy.
The government in 2015 cancelled the Zero Carbon Homes Strategy at the last minute. You could talk to your MP about the potential for the reintroduction of this strategy. This scheme would have ensured that all new dwellings from 2016 would generate as much energy on-site – through renewable sources, such as wind or solar power – as they would use in heating, hot water, lighting and ventilation. This was to be supported by tighter energy efficiency standards. Highlight to your MP that energy-wasting homes mean higher bills. Perhaps you have personal experience of this that you can relate to your MP.
Your MP may be willing to work with and support your local council in retrofitting poor quality housing in your area.
Retrofitting has multiple benefits including lifting people out of fuel poverty. We also have a resource on fuel poverty; let us know if you would like us to send this to you.
As we have seen above, increasing energy efficiency can have huge potential for the economy. The most widely supported solution in the UK today to tackle fuel poverty and climate change is to make home energy efficiency an infrastructure investment priority. Some examples some key features of this programme would include:
- A long term infrastructure programme that puts saving energy at the heart of the UK’s efforts to build a cost effective low carbon energy system, backed by the target to bring all homes up to at least EPC Band C by 2035.
- Long term funding of £1.7 billion / year, supported by public infrastructure investment, to help reach this target. This means that not all the programme is paid for via energy bills, which is much fairer. The programme would achieve economic growth comparable to any other energy, road or railway infrastructure project according to the Government’s own economic analysis.
- Delivering the programme by combining three delivery elements – using energy suppliers (as happens now under ECO), an area-based programme led by local authorities and an additional programme to support low income and vulnerable households outside these areas.
- High quality standards to ensure everyone is happy with the works undertaken in their homes.
- All low income households get work done for free to get their home up to EPC Band C.
- Everyone else gets access to zero interest loans to install energy efficiency measures and a reduction in stamp duty if they buy an energy efficient home.
Scotland has now made energy efficiency an infrastructure priority and is implementing a programme of this kind. It is a great model for the rest of the UK to copy. Raising the necessity of energy efficiency improvements with your MP, whilst highlighting the benefits to the economy can get these issues and benefits on their radar.
Last updated: 16/07/2018