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On the path to net zero: Energy Saving Trust

Girl running in a field towards a wind turbine

How can we cut the UK’s carbon emissions enough to reach net zero by 2050? That’s the question we have been asking in this series of blogs. We looked in detail at some of the areas that need to have the greatest reductions in emissions, like heating and transport

 

As you can see, bold action is needed. We all have a role to play, and that includes Energy Saving Trust. So, for the final blog in the series, we wanted to tell you about our various programmes to reduce carbon emissions.

As well as mitigating the climate emergency and reaching the net zero target, this work is designed to achieve social and economic benefits – all part of the mission to deliver not just a zero carbon society, but a fairer one too.  

Greener homes

Sunshine over UK housing estate

Currently, 22% of UK carbon emissions come from energy use in homes. But fewer than 500,000 UK homes have some form of low carbon heating, when not counting closed stoves or wood used on open fires – less than 2%.

Energy Saving Trust is working to change that. We deliver expert and impartial advice to more than 100,000 households every year, about making their homes more energy efficient.

Our clear, concise information is personally tailored to a household’s needs: whether that’s switching to electric vehicles, heating homes and hot water with a heat pump, saving water, getting the most out of utility providers, using smart meters and appliances, or installing double glazing, LED lighting or wall and loft insulation.

We offer different types of advice in different parts of the UK. Undoubtedly, the most detailed support is provided in Scotland. Under the Home Energy Scotland programme, which Energy Saving Trust delivers for the Scottish Government, we provide free specialist advice over the phone and by email.

For some of the more advanced energy and carbon saving measures, we’re also able to provide in-home advice visits in Scotland. If you’re a homeowner and you want to install renewable heating, for example, you can get in touch with Home Energy Scotland and we will send an adviser round to your house to help you identify the right system for your property.

One of the key barriers to households making more advanced low carbon choices is that they don’t know which companies to trust, or who to approach for advice. The Home Energy Scotland in-home advice helps overcome that barrier.

Energy justice: supporting a net zero transition that’s fair for all

At the heart of our approach to reducing carbon emissions is ‘energy justice’ – ensuring that everyone, wherever they live and whatever their income, can reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

This will not only help us reach net zero by 2050, but it will also tackle other urgent issues like fuel poverty. Programmes to combat fuel poverty have traditionally focused on insulation measures. But at Energy Saving Trust, we are supporting low income households to benefit from renewable energy – so they can heat their homes more affordably and be at the forefront of the next stage in the transition to low carbon.

Working on programmes like Arbed with the Welsh Government, and Warmer Homes Scotland alongside the Scottish Government, we are making it possible for households on lower incomes to replace their gas or oil boilers with renewable heat pumps. 

This is one example of what we mean by energy justice – ensuring that it isn’t just affluent households and communities who are benefitting from the changes to our energy system, as we move towards zero carbon.

It’s crucial work and it links to some of the more ambitious programmes from UK governments. For example, The Scottish Government has appointed a Just Transitions Commission, to help “understand and mitigate risks that could arise in relation to regional cohesion, equalities, poverty (including fuel poverty), and the labour market” from the shift to net zero.

Bold initiatives focused on delivering economic growth through net zero investment in lower income communities will also play an important role in kickstarting the economy after coronavirus. Investment in low carbon buildings, delivering significant job opportunities in construction and renovation work, is one of the best ways to deliver economic stimulus.

Low carbon transport

electric  car at a chargepointTransport is another major source of emissions, so Energy Saving Trust delivers a range of programmes focused on decarbonising transport.

This includes advising businesses and public sector organisations about travelling more efficiently, reducing mileage and fuel use, as well as using ultra-low emission vehicles. We also help businesses and individuals in Scotland buy these vehicles, by providing grants and loans.

Because electric vehicles can’t go anywhere without being charged, we advise local authorities on charging infrastructure. And across the UK, we provide grants and loans to install it.

We deliver advice to help people travel more actively and sustainably, walking and cycling instead of driving. And we make it easier to give it a go, through our Scottish eBike loan scheme, and e-cargo bike scheme in England and Wales.

Just like greener homes, low carbon transport will bring many advantages – not just cutting carbon emissions, but also improving health and reducing air pollution. And given the potential link between coronavirus and dirty air, this could not be more relevant.

There’s also a focus on energy justice in our transport work. We need to ensure that low income households aren’t stuck using petrol and diesel cars, forced to pay high prices for fuel, while more affluent people make the switch to driving electric vehicles. 

That’s why we support a secondhand market for electric vehicles – to ensure that everyone can make the switch to low carbon transport together.

Renewable and community energy

Reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is an ambitious target, and it won’t just happen by flicking a switch. It will require a huge change in the way that our energy is produced and distributed, particularly the development of much more localised generation.

As well as providing advice to individuals and businesses, we work with Governments to install and operate renewable generating systems. We also promote community scale renewable energy generation, working with local renewable energy schemes ranging from wind turbines to rooftop solar panels at primary schools.

The schemes are designed both cut carbon emissions and – where they’re community owned – generate income, which can be used for other projects, like enhancing local transport or public spaces.

So that’s how Energy Saving Trust is leading the way on the path towards a net zero society – where everyone can use renewable energy, in every aspect of their lives. It’s a fairer, greener future – and together, we can make it happen.

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Felix Davey's picture
Felix Davey is an experienced writer, who works with charities and organisations around the world. His words have appeared in various publications including the Guardian. He is especially interested in sustainable transport, and he welcomes any opportunity to conduct firsthand research by going cycling.