Strong argument that an energy savings grant scheme in UK should also support lighting

We can now take advantage of the Green Homes Grant in the UK. But there is one glaring omission in the technologies available to UK’s homeowners, according to Andrew Warren, chairman of the British Energy Efficiency Federation in the September issue of Energy in Buildings & Industry.

 

Why has lighting been left in the dark

This month the Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme begins its life. This is the first publicly funded scheme offering grants to any household, no matter how affluent, to encourage installation of a wide range of energy saving products since the original Homes Insulation Grant scheme was abandoned back in 1988.

Over the next six months, £1.5 bn has been allocated to offer two-thirds of the cost of installing energy saving products – interestingly the exact same percentage as was on offer for the 15 years of that original scheme.

There are two fundamental differences. The first is that individual households can now receive up to £5,000 from the Treasury. And the second is that every single measure must be installed by an official tradesperson, each with qualifications acknowledged under the TrustMark scheme.

So, no DIY rolling out insulation in lofts. No fitting your own thermostatic radiator valves. And certainly, no internal wall linings done by old Bob, who used to work in the building trade years ago.

The over-riding objective is to provide registered employment within the construction industry. Tens of thousands of new jobs will be delivered, according to the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma.

And that sadly means that one of the products that has already brought some of the greatest electricity savings of all, but has the potential to deliver so much more, has been unceremoniously disbarred from entry from the entire grants scheme.

When, in early July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the grants scheme, briefings were sent out to all the media explaining what products would qualify. In the list, as reproduced endlessly, was “energy-efficient lighting.”

But when one month later the Government issued its definitive list of qualifying products, there was no mention of anything to do with lighting.

What might have caused this U-turn? There was a warning from the world’s most powerful man, the Tweetmaster-in-chief. It concerned the merits (or in his view the demerits) of installing LED lamps.

 

Lightbulbs ‘can cause cancer’

I quote verbatim from a tweet issued by Donald Trum[ at 8.39 a.m. on July 17. It reads: “Remember, new ‘environmental friendly’ lightbulbs can cause cancer. Be careful – the idiots who came up with this stuff just don’t care.’

Or it may have been the knowledge that opinion surveys of LEAVE voters in the 2016 referendum reveal that buying lightbulbs familiar to the late Victorians, is up there as a “patriotic” icon akin to blue passports and selling vegetables by the pound rather than the kilo. Which means that there is a portion of the population that may well regard more environmentally friendly lightbulbs with hostility.

Already much attention has been given to the undeniable fact that both the compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), and latterly the LEDs, which have been replacing incandescent lightbulbs, are so much more expensive to purchase. This places, it is argued, a quite unreasonable burden upon, in particular, “just about managing” households.

What receives rather less attention are two key benefits that more modern illumination technologies bring. The first is their relative greater longevity. The second is that they require much less electricity to provide the same amount of illumination.

And there is the (occasional) complaint that these new-fangled bulbs simply don’t provide as much light as the originals they replace is entirely soluble. The Observer recently splashed complaints from those in County Down, Northern Ireland living close to a lighthouse regarding its changeover to LEDs, with just a paragraph devoted to the positive response of the mariners such a lighthouse exists to assist.

Average UK household spend on lighting from 1990

The proof of how important modern lighting can be comes in the remarkable table (above) prepared by the Lighting Association.

In 2016, at the time of the last survey, the average household spent just £87.38 each year on lighting – only 17 per cent of the electricity bill. If consumption levels had remained as in 1990, the average household would now have been paying out £164 a year for illumination. The Lighting Association reckons that, if LEDs can replace all incandescents by 2025, then household lighting bills will have dropped to just £16 p.a. An annual financial savings of £148 per household.

Lighting is one of the main reasons why overall electricity consumption has fallen by 16 per cent over the past 15 years.

Sadly, there will apparently be no means of assisting this trend coming from the new Grant scheme. Which given the need to combat the absurd prejudices I cited earlier, could prove a serious missed opportunity.

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