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News 6 January 2021

Working to address the climate emergency in 2021 and beyond

by Chief Executive, Mike Thornton

The beginning of a new year is a time to both look back at what has gone well and forward to what you hope to achieve. Of course, this time everybody is looking back at a year like no other – and Energy Saving Trust is no exception.

But despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we can be proud of what we achieved last year. We can take special pride in having all our services online within two days of the first lockdown being put in place at the end of March 2020, and even more in maintaining the quality of our advice and support to householders throughout the UK despite this change; our world-class Net Promoter Scores speak for themselves.

A personal highlight for me is the way we adapted our work to help with the pandemic crisis. We’re using our reach and expertise to deliver schemes for the Scottish Government that support landlords and tenants under financial stress, while the Energy Redress Scheme we run for Ofgem has so far distributed more than £6 million to those most in need.

And, of course, our mainstream work continues. We reached more people than ever with support for energy efficiency, sustainable transport and small-scale renewables, saving large amounts of carbon, energy and money.

So last year, despite the pandemic, we managed to keep on delivering and innovating for our mission to address climate change, because we drew on our values of expertise, innovation, collaboration and determination.

The year ahead

But while it’s good to remember last year’s achievements, it is next year and the future that will be critical. Despite the focus we’ve had on Covid-19 in 2020, the climate emergency has most definitely not gone away, and indeed is intensifying.

At Energy Saving Trust we are now working on the assumption that we have around five years before it will be too late to decisively change the trajectory of carbon emissions and keep the rise in global temperatures well below the 2°C Paris Agreement target, with all the severe and disruptive consequences missing this target would bring.

So, given that 2021 is a fifth of this remaining time to act, its importance is clear.

On a positive note, the pandemic has shown we can make huge changes when we have to. With the vital COP26 climate event being held in Glasgow this year, 2021 offers the opportunity for a green recovery from Covid-19, in which the UK and the rest of the world commit and invest to decisively move national and global economies onto a pathway to net zero carbon emissions.

The heat pump challenge

Energy Saving Trust is working and planning to help lead and support this change. One area where we will be concentrating our efforts is in getting low carbon, electric heat pumps into people’s homes, replacing central heating boilers using fossil fuels like oil and gas.

The UK Government’s official adviser, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), has said that heat pumps should provide heating for around 5.5 million homes by 2030, for the country to meet its carbon targets.

This is a huge number and a massive challenge, and of course will result in millions of households having to change the way they heat their homes. It can be done, but householders will need the sort of expert, impartial advice, information and support that Energy Saving Trust exists to provide.

And we are well-positioned to do this. For example, we are already part of initiatives that install more than 1,000 heat pumps a year, including one of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) heat pump demonstration projects.

Taking the lessons from this experience and supporting UK households as they begin to make the switch to heat pumps will be one of our key goals for 2021 and beyond, and we are looking forward to making a difference in this crucial area.

Last updated: 15 January 2021