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|Minister unveils 'great British refurb'
to cut household emissions one-third by 2020 with insulation and
All UK households will have a green
makeover by 2030 under government plans to reduce carbon emissions
and cut energy bills.
Cavity wall and loft insulation will be available for all suitable
homes, with plans to retrofit 400,000 homes a year by 2015.
Financial incentives for householders will also be available for
low-carbon technologies such as solar panels, biomass boilers and
ground source heat pumps, paid for by a levy on utility companies.
The government wants a quarter of homes (7m) to benefit from the
schemes by 2020, extending to all UK households by 2030.
The strategy could help cut household carbon emissions by a third by
2020, part of its target to reduce overall UK emissions by 80% by
2050. Currently, homes account for 27% of the UK's carbon emissions
through heating and power.
The plans were welcomed in principle by green groups and energy
campaigners, though many were still concerned by the lack urgency in
the proposals – which might only begin in 2012 – or detail on how
the majority of the plans will be funded.
Energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: "We need to
move from incremental steps forward on household energy efficiency
to a comprehensive national plan – the Great British refurb."
"We know the scale of the challenge: wasted energy is costing
families on average £300 a year, and more than a quarter of all our
emissions are from our homes. Energy efficiency and low-carbon
energy are the fairest routes to curbing emissions, saving money for
families, improving our energy security and insulating us from
volatile fossil fuel prices."
Under the proposals, a Renewable Heating Incentive would tax utility
companies and then use the money to build up smaller-scale energy
networks. A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate
Change (DECC) said the levy, intended to start in 2011, would not
affect today's household bills. "We have to consult on how it will
work and, in fact, our proposals would have little impact on prices
for many years, apart from cutting billing for those who take up the
offer of help."
In addition, householders could be paid for any electricity they
feed into the national grid from their power-generating facilities.
Miliband said the challenge to retrofit homes was similar to the
UK's "dash for gas" in the 1960s. "Every cooker, every boiler, every
gas fire in the country had to be adjusted. Changing more than 32
million appliances, of 8,000 different makes and models. Each
appliance, house by house, visiting more than 14 million homes. And
in today's prices, the cost they estimated for this was almost £6
billion. Why did they do it? Because they thought long-term and
realised that the shift that they started before I was even born
would still benefit us today. We face the same situation again."
Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC)
said the proposals were suitably ambitious but also needed the
Treasury behind them. "As Lord Stern said yesterday, energy
efficiency in homes and buildings should be part of a green
stimulus. Financial incentives are needed to encourage major green
refurbishments – the precedent has already been set with stamp duty
rebates for zero-carbon homes."
According to Greenpeace UK, a programme to upgrade the housing stock
alone would require £3.5-£6.5bn per year until 2050. Nathan Argent,
head of energy solutions at Greenpeace, said: "Tackling energy
efficiency is the fastest way to cut emissions, boost our energy
security, revitalise the economy and create tens of thousands of
jobs. And, obviously, this will cut household bills too. But this
plan needs much more investment right now. The government needs to
put their wallet where their mouth is."
Miliband said that costs of efficiency measures would pay itself
back over time in reduced bills. Despite that, he said there should
be no upfront cost for consumers and part of today's consultation
will look for ways to finance the strategy - energy companies, local
authorities or even private companies might foot the bills for the
Andrew Warren of the Association for the Conservation of Energy was
concerned that the government had redefined the meaning of
insulation to meet its current insulation targets, set by Gordon
Brown last year, of getting 6m homes fully insulated over the next
"Most people think of insulation as the stuff you shove in your loft
or put around your walls," he said. The current DECC definition, he
said, can also include draft-proofing of letterboxes or replacing
windows. "At the moment, even by the most generous interpretation,
you're not even halfway towards the 6m [target announced by Gordon
Danny Stevens, policy director of the Environmental Industries
Commission said that setting targets for energy efficiency was not
enough. "All we have today is the launch of yet another
consultation. This undermines the urgency of tackling climate change
and ignores the huge economic benefits of ambitious environmental
That sentiment was echoed by Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the
Energy Saving Trust (EST), who said the time for talking is now
over. "We are not short of ideas; we just need action and now. Armed
with the knowledge that 70% of our current housing stock will still
be around in 2050, we know we need to be bold."
He added: "If we throw everything at our existing housing stock –
based on today's technologies only – we could reduce household
carbon emissions by 50%."
The EST said there are 7.3m cavity walls that could be filled with
insulation, 7m solid walls that could be insulated, and 12.9m lofts
which do not have the recommended depth of insulation, and 4.5m
G-rated (the least efficient) gas boilers.
Shadow energy and climate change secretary Greg Clark said the
government was "delaying rather than getting on and adopting our
scheme immediately, when it is desperately needed."
Last month, the Conservatives proposed giving an allowance of up to
£6,500 to every household in the UK for energy efficiency
improvements, the same figure announced today by the Lib-Dems to
In their Warm Homes strategy, the party aims to upgrade more than
two million homes a year for 10 years, and would award the contracts
to regional building companies rather than large national companies
such as Wimpey and Barratt.
Today's Decc strategy also includes ideas to encourage
microgeneration, where homeowners and local communities generate
their own heat or power.