Today (12 October) has seen the publication of The Clean Growth Strategy.
While the strategy states that we will – by 2032 – be somewhat off track from achieving our national climate change target, it’s still a document that’s been broadly welcomed by environmentalists. That’s because it fills a significant policy vacuum for government action on climate change.
Nowhere has there been more of a policy gap in recent years than in home energy efficiency. It’s good that the Strategy suggests lower-carbon, better insulated homes are firmly back on the Government’s radar. Most notably the government announces an aspiration for all homes to meet an Energy Performance Certificate C, reasonable energy efficiency, standard “where practical, cost-effective and affordable”. The aspiration is that rented homes are to meet this standard by 2030 and owner-occupied homes by 2035.
But aspiration is the word: there’s a notable lack of detail on what policies will deliver against the new standards. And one of the worries about the new Strategy is those words, “cost-effective” and “practicable.” Often, the homes that are least cost-effective to improve are often the most dangerously cold and highest carbon. Investing in these homes delivers major benefits to communities, cities and at national level – for example, savings in healthcare costs as we reduce the incidence of cold related illness. It’s vital that that impact assessments for new energy efficiency policies recognise the full benefits of energy efficiency across our economy – and perhaps that government stops hiding behind the language of “cost effective” in its commitments in this area.
Looking at specific policies, Energy Saving Trust has called for The Clean Growth Strategy to announce three things:
We’re therefore pleased that the Strategy announces a call for evidence in this area and a new plan in 2018. We’ll be highlighting the incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy that are available in Scotland – where home owners can borrow up to £32,000 interest free to improve their homes. We urgently need similar incentives in England.
The Strategy announces plans for a consultation for tightened energy standards in building regulations. But it also says that decisions in this area will be linked to the review of the Grenfell Tower Disaster. Our view is that the linkage with the Grenfell process – vital as that is – must not end up delaying action on energy standards in building regulation.
The government has a Fuel Poverty Strategy that all fuel poor households should be an EPC “C” standard by 2030 – and there’s now the new aspiration that rented homes, where many low-income households live, should also meet this standard. But analysis produced several months ago showed that funding needs to be doubled to hit the fuel poverty target. The Clean Growth Strategy announces an extension to 2028 of the main funding programme – the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). But there’s no getting away from the fact that helping the people who are most struggling with their fuel bills will involve additional year-on-year expenditure.
Energy Saving Trust’s Chief Executive, Philip Sellwood, comments following the publication of The Clean Growth Strategy: “We welcome The Clean Growth Strategy and the firm commitment by Government to make domestic energy efficiency a priority. Aspirations for all homes to meet a reasonable energy efficiency standard – rented homes by 2030 and owner occupied homes by 2035 – are very welcome: details on the policies that will enable us to meet these ambitions are now an urgent priority.
“At Energy Saving Trust, we have called for new financial incentives to help all households invest in home energy efficiency – we’re pleased the Strategy announces a call for evidence on this issue. We’re also looking for urgent action on new build homes to ensure these are always built to a zero carbon standard. Again, The Clean Growth Strategy announces plans for consultation, which is good news, but must be followed by rapid action. And we are looking for more funding to improve the homes of people in fuel poverty – our view is that this remains a big policy gap.”
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