Net zero “impossible” without urgent action on energy efficiency

Image: CC0 Pexels/Dominika Roseclay/houses at night Plymouth UK

The government is failing to meet the challenge of decarbonising the UK’s housing stock, according to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

On 22 March, the EAC published a report, Energy Efficiency of Existing Homes, warning that without “urgent action” to improve the energy efficiency of homes this decade, the government’s 2050 net zero target will meet a significant roadblock. It found it has likely underestimated the costs of decarbonising UK homes by 2050 at between £35bn and £65bn. With 19mn properties needing upgrades to meet EPC band C, the EAC highlighted evidence it heard that this can cost £18,000 on average – before a heat pump installation – meaning the cost appears “far greater” than the government’s estimate.

It expressed further concern at the government announcing just £4bn of its £9.2bn commitment to energy efficiency measures in its 2019 manifesto, stressing that a lack of investment and signals to the sector ensures there is little to incentivise businesses to upskill engineers and installers. Poorly designed schemes have been rolled out and failed to make an impact and while ethe Green Homes Grant is a “welcome initiative”, it has been bogged down by lengthy bureaucracy which has seen staff laid off rather than creating green jobs.

Plotting a path forwards, it made a series of recommendations, including that the government supports the rollout of Building Renovation Passports, developed with an approved, standardised methodology, with a view to the eventual replacement of EPCs, and for schemes such as the Home Upgrade Grants, Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and phase two of the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme to all have their funding front-loaded and be rolled out without delay.