News | Published January 01 2020

Conservatives’ plans for green home upgrades must extend, according to experts

The Conservatives’ answer to Labour’s radical Green New Deal during the election campaign was to work toward a net-zero carbon target by 2050, and now Boris Johnson will seek to get the necessary work underway with his majority in hand.

Insulation within UK homes is substandard, and Johnson has set about implementing a nationwide programme to upgrade them. His government has promised to spend £6.3 billion on the project, equating to £2,860 per household which will cover 2.2 million homes.

Johnson plans to continue with current energy price cap legislation to protect the consumer, while also adding similar insulation upgrades to schools and hospitals. That will see the total funding for energy efficiency rise to around £9.2 billion.

The Conservatives claim that the energy efficiency scheme for homes will help the UK meet its emissions targets, suggesting that households could save up to £750 per year on energy bills.

However, the typical saving after such work on housing, according to experts, tends to be around £50, so Conservative estimates on that front are already optimistic.

Furthermore, cross-party group Policy Connect raised awareness back in October of another significant risk to the UK’s green targets within the home: gas central heating boilers.

The group published a report which indicated that 13 per cent of greenhouse gases emitted in the UK come from domestic heating, a similar level to emissions from cars. Insulation has been covered but upgrading homes to greener heating systems is absent from the policy.

The report adds that 4.5 per cent of the UK’s total heat demand in buildings is currently met by low carbon sources, while 84 per cent of homes are connected to the gas grid. It estimates that in order to avoid the net-zero 2050 target coming into jeopardy, that low carbon heating must be rolled out en masse by the 2030s.

Of course, the financial viability of such a move is questionable. It would be cost-effective to install green heating system in new builds, but more challenging to override systems in existing homes.

A report from the advisory Committee on Climate Change suggested it would cost £4,800 to install low-carbon heating in a new home, and £26,300 in an existing house.

Investment would also be needed in up-skilling engineers and installers in order to maintain newer, green heating models.

Joanna Furtado, the lead author for the Policy Connect report, said: “The next five years are critical for heat decarbonisation in new and existing homes and for meeting our climate targets.

“We need to spark a national conversation on heat as MPs and consumers are still in the dark on the savings greener home heat solutions could offer."

The message, however, has not gone entirely unheeded.

The government is looking to enforce a Future Homes Standard by the year 2025 to ensure that all new-build homes are equipped with low carbon heating and are energy efficient. A promise to increase the amount of low carbon gas being used in the gas grid was also made in the 2019 Spring Statement.

A government spokesperson also said in response to the Policy Connect report: "This report rightly highlights heat as one of the UK's biggest challenges in decarbonisation.

"Heat accounts for more than a third of our current carbon emissions, which is why we're spending £2.8 billion to encourage low-carbon heating in both homes and businesses as well as investing in innovation.

"Getting the right mix of technologies to increase energy efficiency is vital. We will also require changes in consumer behaviour as we work towards net zero by 2050.”

If the Policy Connect report proves true in saying that low carbon heating must reach mass roll-out within the 2030s, it will be interesting to see whether the policy is extended and what the government will do with existing heating systems in older buildings.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
January 01 2020

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