The UK “stands no chance” of meeting its goal of cutting carbon emissions to net zero unless it improves the energy efficiency of its buildings—with government support.
That’s the warning from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, which is urging the government to commit to investing in energy efficiency.
Increasing energy efficiency of homes and commercial premises is the cheapest way to cut carbon emissions, the Committee said, as well as reduce consumers’ energy bills and lift households out of fuel poverty, but government funding has dried up.
According to data from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), buildings account for 37% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Heating alone contributes 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with home boilers accounting for most of that.
Despite this insulation of home insulation under government schemes has fallen by 95% since 2012.
The Committee’s report, published Thursday, found a “profound disparity” in public investment in efficiency schemes between England and the devolved nations, suggesting that the UK government sees efficiency as “less of a priority” than its counterparts in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
The government has set a goal of upgrading all buildings to attain at least Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2035 but doesn’t seem aware of how much public money that will require, the Committee cautions.
Meanwhile it has undercut that goal by attaching the caveat that upgrades are only to be undertaken “where practical, cost-effective and affordable” in order to limit costs.
The government should publish its energy efficiency Action Plan without delay to outline how it intends to meet the Band C target by 2035.
The government recently announced a £5 million Green Home Finance Innovation Fund to stimulate the development of energy-conscious lending products, like green mortgages, where homeowners can earn interest rate discounts for boosting their property’s EPC. The Committee’s report called the scheme “woefully inadequate” and suggested the government link Stamp Duty Land Tax to efficiency.
Meanwhile, loopholes in the Building Regulation allow developers to build new homes to outdated efficiency standards. House builders won’t raise efficiency specs without government regulation, the BEIS Committee report claims.
Additionally, the social housing sector should be a “flag bearer” for efficiency work, but the government has yet to introduce a mechanism to fund this.
BEIS Committee Chair Rachel Reeves MP said: “Improving energy efficiency is by far the cheapest way of cutting our emissions and must be a key plank of any credible strategy to deliver net zero by 2050. If the government lacks the political will to deliver energy efficiency improvements, how can we expect it to get on with the costlier actions needed to tackle climate change?
“The government needs to commit to investing in schemes to ensure all buildings are brought up to the highest energy efficiency standards. The government has failed to close loopholes in regulations that allow builders to outdated standards and also enabled builders to sell homes that do now meet the standards advertised.”
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy insisted it is committed to efficiency improvements and pointed out that the UK is ranked fourth in the world for efficiency in the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy 2018 scorecard.
To achieve its 2035 goal, the government has “invested £5 million to develop green mortgages to help homeowners improve the efficiency of their properties, offered support for businesses to take action and our dedicated scheme is improving the energy performance of up to 17,000 public buildings – including schools and hospitals,” a spokesperson said.