UK government to publish climate and energy strategy

This month the UK government is set to publish its long-promised climate and energy strategy. This will follow on from the launch of Scotland’s own strategy - promised to be “more ambitious” – to be issued at the end of January.

It is likely that featuring strongly within the UK policy will be a new strategy to cover heat. This was the topic which, five months into her job, the then energy minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe chose to make her first set-piece speech covering energy efficiency in Britain. (She did give a detailed speech admitting that the UK “is behind on improving the energy efficiency of older buildings” in November, but in Paris  - see EiBI Nov/Dec. 2016). Lord Prior of Brampton has now replaced Baroness Neville-Rolfe at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy after she moved department to become the new Treasury minister.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe pointed out that “heat accounts for 45 per cent of UK energy consumption and over 30 per cent of carbon emissions. UK customers spend well over £30bn a year on energy for heating.”

She stressed “the public cares a lot about having homes which are warm. We all like to be comfortable.” The Baroness then broke new ground for an energy minister, by pointing out how critical energy efficient housing is to the NHS. She stressed: “A warm home provides important health benefits, especially for the most vulnerable in our society.”

Headlining her speech “No Easy Answers”, she accepted that “ heating typically accounts for the large proportion of the household energy bill. “

Neville-Rolfe emphasised that “around half of homes (10m across England) could reduce this cost through relatively simple and low-cost improvements in energy efficiency.” While there are actually closer to 11m homes still using inefficient old non-condensing boilers, replacing these would not normally be categorised as “relatively simple and low cost.”

Sadly, she had just published a public consultation on the “future of heat” which gave no suggestions as to how replacing such boilers might be expedited, nor how sales of thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) might be stimulated.

As with most standard residential energy-saving measures, boiler and TRV sales as with high efficiency glazing are now static year on year, running about 15 per cent below 2012 levels. That is substantially better than the market for residential loft and cavity wall insulation measures. Attendees at a private briefing at the National Insulation Association’s annual conference were told that this market had already declined by 80 per cent over the past four years.

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