Power retailers, social landlords and councils are urging Rishi Sunak to begin mass insulation now among Britain’s 28 million homes, instead of waiting three months for new funding promised by his Chancellor.
Energy UK, the Local Government Association, the Federation of Master Builders and the National Housing Federation are calling on Sunak’s government to continue prioritising energy efficiency as a core solution to the cost of living crisis.
As Chancellor in the earliest days of lockdown, Sunak quietly binned the Johnson administration’s planned insulation blitz.
To the fury of installers & green campaigners and with minimal publicity, Sunak in February 2020 axed the Green Homes Grant, clawing 95 per cent of its largely unspent £1.5 billion back into Treasury coffers. The scheme had been the Conservative’s third attempt at mass insulation since coming to office in 2010.
Sunak has since bounced back. In November’s Autumn Statement his chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced £6.6 billion of public money in this Parliament to plug Europe’s leakiest homes. Another £6 billion will follow after 2025.
The four bodies want that public money to be made available now, and not from Hunt’s starting point in April.
Beginning immediately, they argue, will help keep households bills down permanently, while boosting levelling-up by creating new trade jobs across the country.
The quartet briefed MPs in Westminster yesterday on how constituents obtain help with bills, and on options for improving their homes’ leakage of heat.
The four associations are urging Sunak to match their own ambition by:
- developing a deliverable long-term plan for energy efficiency. Bringing forward the £6.6bn that was committed towards energy efficiency in the Autumn Statement is essential, say the bodies
- Introduce new rules and tax breaks to unlock suppressed demand
- Speed up a review of the thinking which underpins Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs);
- Enable localities better to skills long-term, sustained skills to deliver mass retrofit and energy saving measures; and
- Sit down as before with social landlords and housing authorities to support a long-term cross-departmental approach to policy making in energy efficiency
For Energy UK’s power retailers, deputy chief executive Dhara Vyas said the lobbyists strongly welcomed the government’s crucial support, including discounts through the Energy Price Guarantee, and advice via the Help for Households and It All Adds Up campaigns.
“It is essential that we continue this momentum by building a long-term market for energy efficiency measures that will encourage and support households to invest in insulation”, he added.
For the Federation of Master Builders, chief executive Brian Berry said: “Our country has some of the oldest and leakiest housing in Europe.
“The best way to reduce energy consumption is to make our existing 28 million homes more energy efficient. Local builders are best placed to help householders insulate their homes. But they need certainty for them to invest in the skills and training needed to deliver retrofit improvements”.
Funding announced to incentivise energy efficiency upgrades needs to be brought forward in time for this winter, not next”, Berry urged.
For social landlords, National Housing Federation chief executive Kate Henderson observed: “We now need urgent clarity on the support heat network customers will receive from March 2023 onwards”.
Housing associations were well placed to lead this work, through their ability to deliver change at scale.
Henderson added: “We urge the government to release the remainder of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to allow organisations to bid for larger, longer term energy efficiency projects. This would provide additional certainty across the retrofit sector allowing us to do more, quicker.”
For councils, Local Government Association chair Cllr James Jamieson, said:
“Retrofitting more homes as quickly as possible is a practical, sustainable and economically responsible solution
“We have to be far more ambitious and move much more quickly” Cllr Jamieson urged. “Supply chains and skills need to be scaled up across the country – something that won’t happen overnight.
“Councils are critical to working with their communities, going street by street to help households permanently reduce their bills. We urgently need the funding and support to accelerate energy efficiency.”