Michael Beard, merchant development director at Encon Insulation, has issued the following response to the BMF’s call to Government to support a national retrofit strategy.
We welcome the BMF’s call to Government to support a national retrofit strategy, which is long overdue. Developing an effective long-term plan to save energy and improve the thermal performance of our buildings has been poorly addressed by Government for decades. The energy crisis is now compounding the issue, impacting on our personal and business lives, and there is currently no end to this crisis in sight.
It is a well-documented fact that our existing housing stock is among the oldest in Europe. Eighty per cent of UK homes are 80 years old, 30% of the energy used is wasted and the UK’s housing stock loses up to three times more energy than our European neighbours. According to the Climate Change Committee, 20 million homes need some form of retrofit energy improvement, with a high percentage requiring internal or external wall insulation.
The Government appears to be standing by its ambitious net zero targets by 2050, which is only 27 years away; and to achieve its 78% emissions reduction target by 2035, only 12 years away! But 80% of the buildings currently in the UK will still be in place in 2050 and their energy performance will need to be radically improved. Centre Right Think Tank suggests we will have to retrofit two houses a minute for 13 years to hit the UK’s emissions targets.
The tightening of Part L is good news, but it’s only one part of the solution, and new homes being built today to current regulations will still need further improvement to meet net-zero standards. Fundamentally, the Government’s bold targets will not be met unless energy efficiency is prioritised in all parts of the housing stock and all other buildings too.
Action is needed
The cheapest energy is what we don’t use. Insulating homes and improving the thermal efficiency of buildings is the most cost-effective way to saving energy and reducing fuel bills.
If the Government wants to address the energy crisis effectively and meet its ambitions for net zero buildings, then a long-term retrofit strategy is essential – and one that develops into a national infrastructure project with cross-party support to ensure longevity and delivery. In my view, any new initiative or scheme needs to:
- Be designed by the industry, who will ultimately deliver it.
- Ensure regulation of the scheme is kept transparent, timely and fair.
- Be supported with realistic skills policies that encourages a supply of reliable, well-trained installers and services to help homeowners find trusted contractors.
- Include incentives for user engagement so homeowners can adopt measures in a practical and affordable way. For example, stamp duty relief, green mortgages or VAT cuts on energy-saving home improvements.
Ultimately an effective retrofit scheme will enable all properties over time to move up the EPC banding table and benefit from better thermal performance and money savings on fuel bills. The benefits are also, of course, to our climate and to the country’s energy security.
We need to generate a national obsession to insulate!