The UK has some of the least energy-efficient homes in Europe, with 19 million houses and flats needing extra insulation. In February the national Climate Change Committee said the government’s policy on insulation was ‘very poor’ and a lot more needed to be done. However, the government, with its new Energy Security Strategy, will not impose insulating buildings and instead “call for a gradual transition following the grain of behaviour.” Will Ing discusses the issues in an article on the Architects Journal website. What are your views?
Government says it won’t ‘impose’ better insulation on homes
The government has said it will not ‘impose’ measures to improve energy efficiency in existing homes as ‘British people are no-nonsense pragmatists who can make [their own] decisions’
The UK has some of the least energy-efficient homes in Europe, with 19 million houses and flats needing extra insulation. In February the national Climate Change Committee said the government’s policy on insulation was ‘very poor’ and a lot more needed to be done.
But in an Energy Security Strategy published on Thursday (7 April) amid a huge increase in the price of gas, the government failed to outline any measures to increase energy efficiency beyond its already-announced move to scrap VAT on insulation.
‘The majority of our homes are energy inefficient,’ the strategy admitted. ‘Improving the efficiency of our homes could reduce our heating bills by around 20 per cent and reduce our dependency on foreign gas.
‘We want to continue making UK homes more comfortable and cheaper to run. Every therm of gas saved grows our energy security and brings jobs to the UK.’
But it added: ‘On choice, this is not being imposed on people and is a gradual transition following the grain of behaviour. The British people are no-nonsense pragmatists who can make decisions based on the information.’
The UK Green Building Council was among critics of the energy strategy’s announcement on insulation. The body’s director of communications for policy, Simon McWhirter, said the government had ‘woefully missed its opportunity’ to ‘insulate the nation’s homes [and] protect us against future price hikes and tackle the desperate effects of rising energy costs on households across the UK’.
And RIBA president Simon Allford said the government ‘must realise that we will not ease the burden on vulnerable households unless we improve the energy efficiency,’ adding: ‘We urgently require a national retrofit strategy.’
Elsewhere in the Energy Security Strategy, the government announced plans to ramp up the production of new nuclear power plants and said it plans to work with industry to increase the manufacturing of heat pumps.
The government said it would set up an agency, Great British Nuclear, to bring forward new projects backed by substantial public funding and said a Future Nuclear Enabling Fund with £120 million would be launched later this month.
‘We will work to progress a series of projects as soon as possible this decade, including Wylfa site in Anglesey,’ the strategy states. ‘This could mean delivering up to eight reactors, equivalent to one reactor a year instead of one a decade, accelerating nuclear in Britain.
The long-term ambition is for 24 giga-watts of energy to come from nuclear by 2050 – equivalent to roughly 25 per cent of anticipated electricity demand. ‘Subject to technology readiness from industry, small modular reactors will form a key part of the nuclear project pipeline.’
Last year, former YRM and Scott Brownrigg director Iain Macdonald unveiled designs for a groundbreaking small modular reactor, which could be rolled out across North America, Europe and Asia. The designs were drawn up by Macdonald’s Anglo-Dutch practice Instance for GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.
The government also said it would run a heat pump investment accelerator competition later this year – worth up to £30 million – to help stimulate the production of ‘British heat pumps’ which can reduce demand for gas.
The government said it would also launch a £450 million Boiler Upgrade Scheme this month, adding that it wanted to see 600,000 heat pumps installed every year by 2028 in a bid to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Earlier this week, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report calling for a ‘rapid, deep and immediate’ reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, saying global emissions needed to peak in the next three years to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
It added that, even then, the world would need technology to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. It said if existing government policies to reduce emissions took place the world would still see warming of 3.2°C this century.