MPs claim UK must improve efficiency of buildings and houses

Urgent improvements to energy efficiency standards in buildings and housing stock are vital if the UK is to meet its net-zero target by 2050.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee claims that investment in efficiency has dwindled, despite its importance in helping Britain achieve its climate change benchmarks, cut energy bills and eliminate fuel poverty.

In its latest report, the Committee discovered that efficiency measures installed in UK homes under government schemes, including insulation and low energy lighting, have fallen by 95 per cent since 2012, while constructors have the ability to build properties using old energy standards through numerous loopholes.

Furthermore, it has been revealed that the per capita investment in energy efficiency of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all outstrip that of England.

Rachel Reeves, chair of the BEIS Committee and Labour MP, argues that improving energy efficiency is by far the cheapest way of cutting the UKs 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?” she said.

“More energy efficient buildings are not only crucial for tackling climate change but are vital for lowering customers' energy bills and lifting people out of fuel poverty."

The Committee’s research endorses the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) 2018 report, which called on the Government to prioritise investment of £3.8bn on improvements to the energy efficiency of the UK’s social housing stock.

National Infrastructure Commission Chair Sir John Armitt states that with 22% of carbon emissions coming from heating alone, creating more energy efficient homes can make a huge contribution to achieving the UK’s Net Zero ambitions.

“Our National Infrastructure Assessment calls on government to rapidly accelerate the pace of energy efficiency improvements so that 21,000 measures, such as floor, wall and loft insulation, are being delivered each week,” he said.

“This should cover all types of property and include significant funding for improvements to council and housing association homes, as endorsed by the Committee.”

John Alker, director of policy and places at the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), comments that the BEIS Committee’s findings shows that Government policy continued to be lacking.

"The good news is that there are clear and immediate opportunities for government to address this failure. Most obviously by driving better energy performance in new housing in the imminent update to Building Regulations, and using the Comprehensive Spending Review to kick start much-needed investment in our inefficient existing stock,” he said.

“Without urgent policy action, achieving net zero for buildings will only become more difficult and far more expensive."

In response to the report’s claims that the UK’s housing stock must be made more energy efficient urgently, Gavin Dick, Local Policy Authority Officer at the National Landlords Association (NLA), hit back at the BEIS Committee over its “short-term thinking.”

This paper is based on recommendations that have already been dismissed by BEIS. The report also does not take into account how to get to an EPC D by 2025 or C by 2030 or A by 2040, which is the likely trajectory to meet the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy. A more strategic and long-term plan is needed to help landlords and homeowners achieve the end goal,” he said.

“Improving energy efficiency in buildings is essential to meeting the country’s climate change targets, but this does not mean that at the same time there will be a lowering of household bills and eradication of fuel poverty.

“The cost of moving to a low carbon energy mix could increase costs, for example households moving to electricity to heat a home rather than high-carbon gas could see bills more than double. It’s disappointing that the Committee has not acknowledged this conflict.

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