Energy efficiency in UK homes must become a “national infrastructure priority” – with Government committing to a target of retrofitting 1 million homes a year by 2020 – says a major new coalition of 20 organisations (including the National Energy Foundation) from the construction, housing and environment sectors.
In an open letter to Lord Deighton, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, the heads of environmental groups, charities, membership organisations and trade associations warn that the UK’s homes are among the “coldest and draughtiest in Europe” resulting in high energy bills and “one of the worst records on fuel poverty and preventable winter deaths”.
They argue that Government should direct £3-4 billion a year in capital investment to fund a significant programme of energy efficiency to transform the UK’s aging housing stock. This investment would address market failures and leverage substantial additional private investment. Treasury estimates annual capital investment in infrastructure at £45 billion per year (see notes to editors below).
The leaders write: “Domestic energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective ways to achieve the Government’s three strategic priorities for energy infrastructure: controlling energy bills, tackling climate change and unlocking investment to support economic growth.”
“No other investment can achieve so much for individual householders and for UK Plc.”
The letter comes as the group of organisations publishes a short report, titled A housing stock fit for the future, setting out the strong economic benefits for improving home energy efficiency. These include:
Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Paul King, Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council, said:
“There’s a gaping hole at the heart of the Government’s plan for infrastructure, and that gaping hole is the energy efficiency of our aging housing stock. Government has so far failed to recognise the huge opportunities it presents.
“But it’s not too late. Making home energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority – and offering it significant support alongside transport, energy generation or communications projects - would not only cut households’ rocketing energy bills and help tackle climate change, but would create thousands of new jobs and strengthen the UK’s energy security. Government spends £45billion a year on capital infrastructure investment - our bricks and mortar deserve to be included.”
Following the letter, a launch event was held on 24 June at the House of Commons, kindly hosted by Alan Whitehead, the Labour MP for Southampton Test.
Signatories to the letter and supporters of the report
Association for the Conservation of Energy
Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency
Centre of Refurbishment Excellence
Energy Bill Revolution
Energy Saving Trust
Federation of Master Builders
Forum for the Future
Friends of the Earth
National Energy Action
National Energy Foundation
National Housing Federation
National Insulation Association
SHIFT - Sustainable Homes Index For Tomorrow
Sustainable Energy Association
UK Green Building Council
The cost estimate of £3-4bn per year is based upon fully-funded installations for 500,000 low-income households and the provision of low-cost loans to 500,000 able-to-pay households. (Consumer Futures, Raising Standards, cutting bills, June 14)
The Government’s National Infrastructure Plan 2013 indicates annual infrastructure investment at £45billion per year.
As a national infrastructure priority, energy efficiency would be eligible for Government capital spending that could be used to overcome barriers to delivery. Capital investment could be used to subsidise low-cost loans for householders and a programme of targeted installations for the fuel poor. Government could also provide an overarching strategy to give confidence to investors in the infrastructure pipeline and help facilitate a clear delivery plan.
The energy efficiency sector has enormous potential to attract investment and provide a major source of additional income for Government. For every €1 of public funds spent on the KfW Energy-efficient Construction and Refurbishment programme in Germany in 2010, over €15 were invested in construction and retrofit, and more than €4 went back to the public finances in taxes and reduced welfare spending.