Insulation and Fuel Poverty

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The refurbishment of our homes and buildings is one of the greatest opportunities we have to reduce the UK's carbon emissions. The UK's housing stock is amongst the least energy efficient in Europe and is responsible for nearly a quarter of our annual carbon emissions. (UK Green Building Council).

The majority of the UK's existing housing stock requires some level of retrofit to enable the UK to live and work more sustainably. Having well insulated homes can also drastically decrease fuel poverty for the 2.3 million people suffering from this issue.

The graph to the right shows improvements in energy efficiency. However, the future of energy efficiency for the UK's housing stock requires further government effort.

A household is considered to be fuel poor if...

  • They have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level).
  • If they were to pay that amount, the household would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.

From the 1st April 2018 there will be a requirement for any properties rented out in the private rented sector to have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) (Residents Landlord Association). The lowest efficiency rating is G. 

Government Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report

Key Findings:

  • In 2014, the number of households in fuel poverty in England was estimated at 2.38 million (approx 10.6% of all English households. This is an increase from 2.35 million households in 2013).
  • Households with lower energy efficiency bands have a higher likelihood of being fuel poor.

In December 2014, the Government introduced a new statutory fuel poverty target for England. The target was set to ensure that as many fuel poor homes as reasonably achievable have a minimum energy efficiency rating of a Band C, by 2030. To support the implementation of this target, the Government published ‘Cutting the cost of keeping warm: a fuel poverty strategy for England', in March 2015. This report is an important step as it is the first fuel poverty strategy in over a decade. There are, of course, areas where the strategy could be improved and Friends of the Earth have released a report in response to this which you can read here.

Improving the energy efficiency of houses

A picture taken with a Thermal Imaging camera. The house on the left has had external cladding, highlighting the loss of heat from the house on the right in the absence of sufficient insulation. 

A picture taken with a Thermal Imaging camera. The house on the left has had external cladding, highlighting the loss of heat from the house on the right in the absence of sufficient insulation. 

 Improving the energy efficiency of the UK's houses has health and financial benefits. Excess winter deaths are attributable to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and there is a relationship between excess winter deaths and lower household temperatures and thermal efficiency. Inefficient housing is therefore linked to added pressure on the NHS. Furthermore, residents pay their bills to Big 6 Energy Companies, who in turn spend a portion of this on carbon combating. Instead, an initial investment in reducing the need for as much energy, thus reducing the cost of bills and allowing people to spend their money elsewhere, would bring additional benefits to the economy. Rather than only offsetting the high levels of energy we use through renewables, it makes sense to also reduce energy waste through efficient housing. 

So how do we promote energy efficient housing?

New Houses

Any new dwelling is required to have SAP Calculations (a measure of energy efficiency) carried out, but there are currently no energy performance requirements in the current building regulations.

Some ways in which the build of houses can affect its efficiency; 

Read tips for making your home more energy efficient at Greener Ideal. 

Read tips for making your home more energy efficient at Greener Ideal

  • A building with cavity walls is less likely to be in fuel poverty than a house with solid walls.
  • Older and larger buildings have a higher prevalence of fuel poverty than newer and smaller homes. A smaller home also requires less energy to build for the materials, has lower energy demands in the running costs and requires fewer furnishings.
  • Houses with condensing boilers have lower levels of fuel poverty compared to homes with non-condensing boilers.

Existing Houses (Retrofitting)

Whilst making it a requirement for new builds to have an energy efficiency of B or higher would be fantastic, this still leaves thousands of homes around the UK with a rating of D and below. To meet the UK's carbon emission targets (see 'The Climate Change Act of 2008'), this will require retrofitting.

Retrofitting involves the addition of new features to older housing, such as better insulation, double or triple glazing windows and blocking drafts. Furthermore, improving the energy efficiency of rented houses would reduce the likelihood of rent arrears, benefiting landlords as well as tenants. 

Asking your MP to support climate policy

  • You can ask your MP to encourage the Government to make retrofitting part of the UK's infrastructure policy. Tackling the existing housing stock will not only reduce carbon emissions but also lift people out of fuel poverty. 
  • You could talk to your MP about making a commitment to insulating the poorest-quality homes first, who are most in need.
  • You can discuss this extremely low energy efficiency target with your MP and ask for an upgrade of building regulations to ensure that all new properties are energy band A or B. This will reduce the incidence of fuel poverty in the future and drastically reduce the 40% of UK carbon emissions that come from domestic buildings.
  • You can ask your MP to support these ideas by writing to Greg Clark, the Minister for Energy and Industrial Strategy, or raising the issue in parliament.

If your MP has a particular interest in tackling fuel poverty, then also visit our Community Energy page; community energy can help tackle energy security and reduce energy bills.