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Decarbonisation of 29 million homes at risk due to significant gaps in net-zero plans

25th August 2021

It’s currently too complicated for people to adapt their homes for net zero and too often things go wrong. That’s the message today from a major coalition of consumer and industry groups in an open letter to the Prime Minister.

Citizens Advice, Which?, Aldersgate Group and the Federation of Master Builders are urging the government to work with them to address the obstacles currently faced by consumers and ensure lessons from previous energy efficiency schemes are learned. Otherwise it risks undermining the UK’s ability to decarbonise its 29m homes.

By making sure this process is as easy as possible for the public to engage with and understand, the government can maintain public trust and support and realise the benefits of emissions cuts, safer and warmer homes and innovation and jobs.

  • Consumer confusion - right now the process of installing low-carbon heating, upgrading insulation or installing smart technologies is time-consuming, confusing and stressful. Researching and choosing the right technology, finding a reputable installer and having the work completed demands huge amounts of knowledge, time and effort.
  • Things go wrong too often - the process of making adaptations is often beset by problems, including poor installation, technologies not working as expected, and people facing difficulties fixing things when they go wrong.

The coalition is also urging the government to avoid the mistakes of past energy efficiency schemes. Mistakes which left too many people struggling with damp and mould due to poorly installed insulation. Others suffered damage to their homes, leaving them with long-term problems that were expensive, disruptive and distressing to resolve.

Despite recent improvements, current consumer protections are not ready for the pace and scale of the work needed to improve millions of UK homes.

The coalition is calling on the government to take the opportunity to fix these gaps through its upcoming Net Zero Strategy and put in place a long-term strategy to help households overcome the barriers to adapting their homes for the net-zero transition.

  • Information - from installing low-carbon heating to upgrading insulation, it’s confusing for people to know what steps to take and what technologies to install. People need more accessible and unbiased information to help make the right changes to their homes.
  • Consumer protections - the consumer protection landscape must be fit for purpose. If protections don’t keep up with the pace of change, the door will be opened to scammers and rogue traders. Previous energy efficiency schemes have been marred by such problems - which also began to emerge with the Green Homes Grant.
  • Costs - many people will need financial support to make changes to their homes. There needs to be a comprehensive long-term policy framework that provides certainty for businesses and consumers, which offers financial support such as predictable and well-advertised grants, low-cost loans and financing.

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Our evidence is clear. Right now, making green changes to homes is too confusing and too often things go wrong for those trying to do the right thing. The public are behind the net-zero transition, but they need the right information and tools, particularly when it comes to adapting their home.

“By getting things right now, the government can give people the confidence to make changes and play their part in getting to net zero.”

Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which?, said:

“Decarbonising millions of households across the UK is a vital, but complex component of the government’s net-zero strategy, and its success will depend on ensuring consumers are supported in transitioning to low carbon heating systems, which will involve radical changes to their home.

“The level of support consumers need must not be underestimated, and we are urging the government to ensure its net-zero policy has provisions to help consumers navigate the heating market, through access to the right information, strong consumer protections, and if needed, financial support.”

Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said:

“Cutting emissions from homes is a significant part of achieving net-zero emissions but the transition also presents a real opportunity to improve the quality of the housing stock and the affordability of energy bills across the country.

“The Government has a significant opportunity with the upcoming Net Zero Strategy to set a clear direction of travel through predictable regulatory targets, easily accessible policy incentives and much improved information and local support measures. It is vital that energy efficiency and low-carbon heat schemes are placed on a long-term footing, so that industry can invest, train its workforce, and grow consumer confidence.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said:

“With our homes consuming 35% of all energy in the UK and emitting 20% of our total carbon dioxide emissions, it’s clear that net zero will only be possible alongside a long-term plan to green our homes. Short-term interventions, such as the prematurely closed Green Homes Grants Scheme, served only to undermine, rather than create, certainty for both consumers and builders.”

 “Any policy framework must be long-term, allowing time for local building firms to complete the relevant training to retrofit homes. Homeowners need to be informed about what changes need to happen to their home to make it environmentally-friendly. We recommend each building should have a renovation passport, setting out the path to net zero. We also need a locally-led approach that is sensitive to local communities’ needs.”


Ambitious trials and policy clarity key to support hydrogen

17th August 2021

Reacting to the publication today of the Hydrogen Strategy, Nick Molho, Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group said: “The Government’s consultation on business models to make large-scale low carbon hydrogen production commercially viable and the commitment to develop a credible standard to ensure UK hydrogen production is consistent with the net zero target are two important steps forward. Low carbon hydrogen has a crucial role to play in cutting emissions in complex sectors of the economy, such as long-range road transport and heavy industry in both clustered and dispersed sites. The key to ramping up production and cutting the cost of low carbon hydrogen will be to pursue meaningful demonstration projects in sectors such as steel, co-ordinate the deployment of supportive infrastructure, support investment in skills, and provide rapid clarity on the market mechanisms industry can rely on to make a predictable return on investment.”  
Nick Molho added: “The Government’s hydrogen production strategy must take into account the fact that different types of hydrogen are at different stages of development. They therefore have different requirements in terms of the innovation, infrastructure and policy support they require, with green electrolysis for example needing support to scale up over time from pilot trials initially to large commercial scale projects. Given the currently limited availability of low-carbon hydrogen, it will be essential that the use of hydrogen is first of all prioritised towards areas where few low carbon alternatives exist to cut emissions, such as in heavy industry and long-distance transport.”   


Evidence is clear – global action on climate change cannot wait

9th August 2021

Responding to the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, Nick Molho, Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group, said: “The message from the IPCC is crystal clear: climate change is happening here and now and it is caused by greenhouse gas emissions linked to human activity. Today’s report has huge implications for policy makers in terms of tackling greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the levels of climate change the world is already locked into. To keep the 1.5C target alive and adapt to a changing climate, governments around the world must provide unequivocally clear policy signals to significantly accelerate the investment that is urgently needed in ultra-low carbon infrastructure and nature-based solutions. The business and finance communities have a clear role to play too by taking on credible net zero emissions and biodiversity restoration targets and delivery plans.”
Nick Molho added: 
“The UK Government has a critical role to play in the coming months. On the global stage, it needs to gather maximum momentum to bring emission reduction pledges from all key emitting nations in line with the 1.5C target and look to underpin this with tangible global collaboration and initiatives in areas where cutting emissions is particularly complex. Domestically, the expected publication of the net zero strategy and the finalisation of the Environment Bill provide the Government with a unique opportunity to set out the detailed and comprehensive policy framework to unleash the low-carbon investment that is needed across the UK’s homes, industry, energy, transport and land management sectors and maximise the job creation opportunities that will come with this.”

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