New analysis notes that extended lockdown into the winter months could exacerbate fuel poverty in the UK

Cecilia Keating writes on the Business Green website about new analysis from the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) calls on the government to implement vast energy efficiency programmes for homes that will lower heating bills while reducing carbon, spurring jobs and levelling regional inequalites.


ECIU: Leaky homes and extended lockdown could exacerbate households’ Covid-19 financial struggles

A new analysis by the ECIU notes that extended lockdown into the winter months could exacerbate fuel poverty in the UK and calls on the government to implement vast energy efficiency programmes for homes that will lower heating bills while reducing carbon, spurring jobs and levelling regional inequalites.

Families living in the UK’s ‘leakiest’ homes could have to shell out roughly £50 more a month on heating bills than those who live in better-insulated buildings if the coronavirus lockdown is extended or repeated in the winter months, the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has today warned.

A new report from the think tank argues that an increase in household energy bills caused during an extended lockdown period could exacerbate financial challenges sparked by the Covid-19 economic shock and force families that are unable to shoulder the higher energy bills that would result from spending more time at home to live in cold, unsafe homes.

The analysis suggests that if a lockdown is reintroduced or continues during the colder, winter months, families in poorly-insulated homes may have to stomach bills elevated on average to £124 a month. Those in well-insulated homes, meanwhile, would shell out roughly £76 a month on heating.

“This report is a sobering reminder of both the consequences of past failures to tackle the problem of Britain’s leaky homes and the importance of upcoming policy interventions to start to fix the problem,” said Jess Ralston, report author and ECIU analyst.

An election manifesto pledge to spend £9bn on energy efficiency programmes for buildings was not followed up with specific spending proposals in the government’s March’s Budget, but four documents set to be published this year are expected to lay out details of the government’s building efficiency strategy: the Energy White Paper, the National Infrastructure Strategy, the updated Fuel Poverty Strategy, and the Heat in Buildings Strategy.

Ralston emphasised the government now has a “major opportunity” to use upcoming policy interventions to simultaneously improve the performance of the UK’s building stock while meeting its carbon and fuel poverty goals – all while helping to boosytt the coronavirus-impacted economy. “The stakes are higher now, with Covid-19 adding to the financial struggles many families in energy-wasteful accommodation already face, increasing their bills still further and pushing some towards fuel poverty,” she said.

Titled Lockdown in Leaky Homes, today’s report stresses households in leaky homes consistently shoulder significantly higher heating bills than those in well-insulated homes, even in a ‘normal’ year. Bills in an EPC C-rated home are roughly £95 lower for the whole year than the average winter heating costs of an EPC F rated property.

The ECIU argues that upgrading properties could deliver specific benefits to UK regions that experience high levels of fuel poverty, such as the North of England, the Midlands, and the South-West, by simultaneously improving people’s homes and creating tens of thousands of skilled jobs.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive the UK’s Green Building Council, said that today’s analysis shined a “spotlight” on the poor state of the UK’s existing building stock. “With hard times ahead for many families, tackling the issue of leaky and unhealthy homes has never been more important. As we look towards recovery from this crisis, energy efficiency clearly represents a ‘win-win’; a vital opportunity to deliver ‘shovel-ready’ projects up and down the country while reducing costs for households,” she said.

Action now on building energy efficiency, she added, “will not only secure local jobs across the country, but deliver considerable benefits for residents together with vital progress towards our net zero target”.

Experts agree the UK’s net zero goal can not be met without vast improvements in household energy efficiency, as well as mass decarbonisation of heating and water systems in homes. Housing currently accounts for roughly 14 per cent of the nation’s carbon emissions and just one per cent of new homes are EPC Band A, the gold standard for energy efficiency, according to the Committee on Climate Change.

Paul Masssara, a member of the Committee on Fuel Poverty and former chief executive of Npower, warned that energy efficiency programs would be critical to the UK reaching its cliamte ambition. The government is at serious risk of missing its fuel poverty targets and needs to be urgently looking at major energy efficiency programmes that can simultaneously help reduce regional inequalities, reduce carbon, create jobs and save people money. This has to be part of building back better as we seek to kick start the economy,” he said.

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