Energy Saving Trust: the top three government priorities for meeting the fifth carbon budget

Posted by David Weatherall and Joseph Cosier on 11th July 2016

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THE ENERGY SAVING TRUST'S PERSPECTIVE

Energy Saving Trust is the leading sustainable energy organisation in the UK: we provide impartial advice on energy efficiency, home renewables and sustainable transport to households, businesses and communities, and around 5m people visit our website every year. In conjunction with UK and devolved governments we provide telephone advice to over half a million people a year. This experience has shown us first-hand the challenges that households face with their energy usage.

In its 2016 progress report the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) identified buildings as one of the biggest areas to work on with a number of policy gaps that need addressing. We agree with this and very much see energy efficiency as the ‘first fuel’: the cheapest energy being the energy that isn’t used. We also believe that there is household appetite to make improvements, provided that the right support is in place and that it’s framed in the right way.

We set out our three top policy priorities: what we believe the government should do on home energy efficiency in its upcoming emissions reduction plan and how it can address the policy shortfall. All this needs to happen within a new roadmap for energy policy that will replace the EU directives and targets that have driven much of the action in this area over the past few years.

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1. INSULATING OUR COLD HOMES AS A NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE PRIORITY

The CCC finds that progress has stalled on energy efficiency. Funding has been cut and there is no action plan for energy efficiency and low carbon heating. This is despite energy efficiency being the cheapest and most effective way to decarbonise, as well as delivering wider benefits, such as reduced healthcare costs, reduced demand for energy, improved health and wellbeing, fuel poverty, and job creation and growth.

Failing to invest in energy efficiency is a massive missed opportunity and is why we believe that government should set energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority in its Emissions Reduction Plan. Doing so would be a formal recognition of the importance of improving the thermal efficiency of the building stock at a national level. It is a crucial first step in garnering cross party support for tackling fuel poverty and cold homes, and we believe it is vital in changing the narrative around home energy use.

2. NATIONAL ACTION PLAN AND INVESTMENT PROGRAMME

To follow on from this, a clear action plan on how to transform UK homes should then be set out by government, detailing the appropriate targets and policies that it intends to use, and ensuring that home energy policy is joined-up, coherent and takes a long term perspective.

We believe that all homes on average should meet a ‘C’ EPC rating by 2025: this is a difficult but achievable task. It would require a significant spending commitment from government to ensure that all those affected can receive the right amount of help. ECO, the obligation on energy companies to support energy efficiency will continue to be an important part of the funding mix.

Well-targeted regulation will also be needed. This would include minimum standards for the private rented sector and for social housing. To ensure that people are able to meet the minimum requirements there are a lot of fiscally neutral tools that government can use to ensure we meet a 2025 ‘C’ target and could involve all, or a combination of the following:

  • Council tax, stamp duty changes, green mortgages
  • Zero interest loans with grant uplifts for more ambitious retrofits
  • Pay as you save whole house retrofit packages
  • A central government funded fuel poverty programme
  • A supplier obligation to continue delivering the cheapest and easiest measures

It will also be vital for government to set out what it intends to do on low carbon heat in the long term, its plan for small and community scale renewable energy and how all the different elements fit together.

3. ZERO CARBON NEW BUILDS

The Zero Carbon Home standard had been a stellar example of what could be achieved with good lead time, cooperation between industry and government and a healthy amount of political will. As such it was much to the dismay of the low carbon sector when it was scrapped in summer 2015.

We call on government to re-introduce the Zero Carbon Home standard. Whilst it is clear that the bulk of the challenge in the residential sector is existing homes we need new homes to be future proof. The best and cheapest way of doing so is by setting ambitious new build standards.

David Weatherall is a Policy Adviser at the Energy Saving Trust. Joseph Cosier is a Policy Assistant at the Energy Saving Trust.

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