Every year thousands of people die from living in cold homes. Millions more can’t afford to keep their homes warm, and suffer not only from the cold, but from the myriad physical and mental health problems that fuel poverty brings. There is a solution, and it isn’t rocket science. A major, publicly-funded energy efficiency programme to insulate every home in the country would save the average household £300 on their energy bill and bring millions out of fuel poverty. It would also significantly increase energy security, and help us to hit the carbon emissions reduction targets set in the Climate Change Act, Labour’s most important environmental achievement in its last term of office. So, why aren’t we getting on with it? The usual answer is “it’s expensive!”. On the one hand, that’s true – a really effective scheme would need a secure funding stream of about £4bn per year until 2025. But on the other hand, on closer examination, it isn’t. A long-term, large-scale insulation programme would bring major, long-term, financial benefits which would pay back the initial investment. It would do, in spades, everything Infrastructure UK says major investment is meant to, and which the country needs so badly: strengthen the economy, create jobs, and increase living standards.
A new Green Alliance report gives an analysis of the potential of energy saving (negawatts) to reduce peak electricity demand in the UK. Drawing on experience from the US, it also recommends ways to improve the government’s two year pilot scheme, launched in July 2014, to test energy demand reduction in the capacity market.
A new manifesto published by the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) has calculated that the UK could save £12.1billion per year by 2050 by focusing energy policy on greener buildings. The ambitious recommendations to all political parties show how the UK economy could save billions by placing buildings at the heart of energy policy. The Sustainable Energy Association’s Manifesto, published on 7 July, uses the Government’s own online calculator to demonstrate how an ambitious programme of insulating buildings, and producing more energy directly from buildings themselves could net savings to the economy averaging £12.1bn per year from now until 2050. This is equivalent to a £189 saving per year, every year, for every UK citizen. The SEA manifesto calls on all major political parties to adopt a renewed approach to energy policy, focusing on: An Energy in Buildings Strategy; A major focus on the use of smart technology to treat buildings as an integral part of the energy system; A new approach to home heating, recognising the potential of the heating installer; A major infrastructure-based energy refurbishment of the UK’s buildings.
Unison, the public service union, is calling for a national programme of energy efficiency measures to ensure that every UK domestic property complies with the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) at Band C. This programme could be delivered universally to all householders on a door to door basis over a 15 year period. Firstly every UK home should be classified according to its Energy Performance Certificate via a national free door to door assessment programme, which identifies the remedial works required to meet the EPC band C. Low income households should receive the remedial works free at the point of delivery but capped at a maximum of £10,000. Those not classed as low income should be able to access an interest free loan repayable over a maximum time of 10 years.
Cumbria County Council has become the latest local authority to upgrade its street lights to energy-efficient LED bulbs, maximising savings. The Council plans to invest £7.6m by installing almost 12,000 LED light bulbs saving around £430,000 a year in energy and maintenance costs. The high-performance bulbs produce more light using less energy – the energy that they do consume is almost completely channelled into the creation of light, rather than losing waste energy in heat form, as many incandescent bulbs do.
Ready for Retrofit, is a three-year project offering a new funding opportunity for social landlords in the south west of England (except Cornwall) to improve the energy efficiency of their existing stock. The programme is run by the Energy Saving Trust. It has just signed contracts worth 0ver £660,000 with two Social Housing Associations in the South West. The programme, which awards funding to social housing suppliers to retrofit their properties with energy efficiency or micro generation measures confirmed the awards to Alliance Homes and Westward Housing Group. Alliance Homes in Bristol have been given £503,056 to retrofit measures to make its challenging properties in the Portishead area more energy efficient. Alliance Homes will top up the funding to £819,081 to improve 63 properties that currently suffer high wind exposure and fabric issues, resulting in high fuel costs. Installations will include solid wall insulation, loft top up’s for top floor flats and bungalows, LED lighting as well as replacement of gas boilers and mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems.
Hartlepool Borough Council is proposing to replace all of Hartlepool’s 13,644 street lights with LED luminaires in a 12-month scheme. The council says the scheme, which it is estimated will cost £5 million, will save the authority between £400,000 and £550,000 a year on its energy bill.
Doncaster Council has awarded a contract to Anesco to manage the installation of external wall insulation in 100 privately-owned ‘priority group’ homes. The upgrades will be completed at no cost to homeowners or the local authority, with funding being provided through the national Priority Group Flex (PGF) scheme. PGF funding is available to low income private sector households where the occupier is in receipt of certain benefits. The upgrades to the Doncaster homes are expected to bring annual savings for residents of around £475 per year, helping to lift many households out of fuel poverty.
Some of the oldest and most rundown housing in the city is undergoing a dramatic facelift. Just over 200 Victorian terraced homes in west Hull are having external solid wall insulation installed. The facelift work is being carried out by Hull City Council with a mix of local and national government funding, even though the properties are still privately owned.