NIA calls for efficiency revolution to support economic recovery
Improving UK homes could create 8,000 new jobs, reduce carbon emissions, drive down energy bills, alleviate fuel poverty, and save the NHS £1 billion, says the National Insulation Association (NIA) in its latest report.
As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, a unique opportunity exists to accelerate the low carbon transition and build a stronger, more resilient Britain – and we can begin by kickstarting the Home Upgrade Grant Scheme promised in the 2019 Conservative Manifesto.
For families across Britain, home energy upgrades will not just reduce energy bills, it will also radically improve health and well-being. Rolled out at scale the Home Upgrades would close the significant gaps in the Government’s climate strategy and deliver far-reaching benefits right across the country.
The NIA’sreportgoes one step further than simply calling for energy efficiency roll out; it sets out a considered view on how a scheme could operate. It considers how funding might be deployed, who would be eligible and how quality of work can be maintained.
With the effect of respiratory disease and other illnesses caused or exacerbated by poor housing estimated to cost the NHS at least £1.4 billion per year in England alone, improvements could go a long way to easing the strain on the service that has seen us through the worst of the health crisis.
Proposals within the paper include a street-by-street approach to home upgrades transforming the local streetscape by tackling clusters of properties at the same time through a two-stage process: a retrofit assessment or green MOT for all homes below EPC Band C, followed by deep retrofit upgrades for those most in need. The grants would be used for a combination of fabric efficiency improvements, such as loft and wall insulation, and low-carbon heating systems such as heat pumps. Properties would be identified by local authorities working closely with Local Energy Hubs commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Derek Horrocks, Chairman of the National Insulation Association, said: “The benefits that come from improving the quality of our homes are substantial on any level but particularly now as we come out of the crisis. Jobs have been lost, incomes have dipped and at the same time energy bills have risen because we are spending more time at home. For anyone living in or at risk of being affected by fuel poverty, this is critical – and the best way to tackle the issue is to improve the quality of our homes.
“Providing support to those in need must take priority, but incentivizing the deep street by street retrofits that will be needed to achieve our climate targets will drive uptake in all homes below standard; this makes sense when it can be done at the same time. If we are going to ‘build back better,’ it is now time to turn promises into action. After being hit hard by the pandemic, the industry is ready and waiting to respond to an increase in demand – but the signal of certainty must first come from the Government. Once this happens, the sector is ready to go.”
The NIA report follows the Committee on Climate Change’s most recent Progress Report to Parliament, which highlights the lack of progress made over the past 12 months towards delivering on climate goals, with buildings and heating policy lagging behind what is needed. Within the report, the CCC recognises that ‘retrofit to increase building heat efficiency has been largely unaddressed’ and calls for upgrades to our homes and the integration of emission reduction measures within them. The Home Upgrade Grant Scheme is exactly the type of intervention that can help to make this goal a reality, and at a critical turning point for the Government following the COVID-pandemic, the opportunity simply cannot be missed.