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UK net zero ‘impossible unless urgent action taken on energy efficiency’

Urgent action should be taken to improve the energy efficiency of homes this decade, or the government’s legally enshrined target to be net zero carbon by 2050 will hit a roadblock – so says the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in its latest report: Energy Efficiency of Existing Homes published in March.

The government appears to have underestimated the costs to decarbonise UK homes by 2050, says the Committee. Some 19mn UK properties need energy efficiency upgrades to meet EPC band C, and the EAC heard in evidence that this can cost on average £18,000 (before a heat pump installation) – suggesting the cost is likely to be far greater than the government’s estimate.

The EAC is concerned that the government has announced just over £4bn of the £9.2bn committed to in the 2019 manifesto for energy efficiency measures. To stimulate activity, schemes such as the Home Upgrade Grants, Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and phase two of the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme should be front-loaded and rolled out without delay.

The lack of government investment and signals to the energy efficiency sector is also doing little to incentivise businesses to upskill engineers and installers, says the EAC. Chairman Philip Dunne said: ‘Making 19mn homes ready for net zero Britain by 2050 is an enormous challenge that the government appears to have not yet grasped. In the next 29 years, the government must improve energy efficiency upgrades and roll out low carbon heating measures: a material start must be made now.’

Dunne added: ‘The £9bn that the government pledged at the election was welcome but, 16 months on, there appears to be no plan nor meaningful delivery. Funding allocated for the Green Homes Grant has not been spent, with only £125mn worth of vouchers – of the £1.5bn budget – issued.’

Further schemes that endure must be rolled out, says the Committee, which would boost the government’s credibility with householders and their contractors that it is determined to decarbonise the nation’s homes. 

‘Although installations may be disruptive for a short period, in the long run consumers can enjoy warmer homes with lower energy bills. This must be properly reflected in the system that assesses energy efficiency: EPCs are outdated and should be replaced with Building Renovation Passports, which set a clear pathway to decarbonise homes,’ concluded Dunne.

News Item details

Journal title: Energy World

Subjects: Energy efficiency Net zero

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