Food for thought

Tis the voice of the lobster; I heard him declare
You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair

I suppose it was only a matter of time. After the Great British Bake-Off, the Great British Pottery Throw-down and the Great British Sewing Bee, there was only really one thing left to be great and British. Roll-up, roll-up get your hands on the first funds from the Great British Insulation Scheme.

Sound familiar? The Government handing out the ingredients (!) to encourage householders to improve their properties’ energy efficiency in order to save money and the planet? That’s because it is. It’s a rebranding, reimagining re-whatevering of the ECO+ scheme, itself a revamp of the old Energy Company Obligation scheme, the one that in the beginning flooded our households with low energy lightbulbs. The original ones that take 10 minutes to fully light up, so you end up using twice as many lights just to be able to see the telly. The ones that last FOREVER, so that you feel you can’t throw them out and replace them with proper, modern ones that allow you to, you know, see properly. I digress.

The scheme launches this Summer and will run until March 2026. It works by obligating energy suppliers to help their customers to reduce their heating bills through the installation of energy efficiency measures, such as loft and cavity wall insulation.

Once the scheme launches in the summer, households will be able to check their eligibility via GOV.UK or a participating energy supplier or local authority. If a household is eligible, they will then be contacted about arranging a survey of their home and to organise any installation.

Depending what measures are required, and how much they cost, there may be an element of self-funding. I.e. If you earn too much money, or your house is too big then you are on your own, Sonny Jim.

It is, I suppose, at least a recognition by the Government of the importance of this issue. We are still, by and large, the most poorly-insulated country in Europe. We still spend far more of our household income on heating our homes, and on fossil fuels to do so. So the fact that the Government has cooked up (see what I did there?)another attempt to bring our houses to a higher standard is a positive thing. It really is.

Time will tell whether the Great British Insulation Scheme rises to the challenge, or if it is another half-baked idea like the Green Deal, and so many that have gone before.

The £1bn that has been set aside may sound like a lot of dough, but it will only stretch so far. It may be sufficient for the 300,000 households in the Government’s press release, but there are 29million homes that require improvements.

It would have been much more exciting had this scheme been part of a National Retrofit programme, which would have had the added benefit of creating up to 500,000 skilled jobs. I suppose that would just have been the icing on the cake. (did it again, sorry-not-sorry)

You may scoff, (OK, I’ll stop now) but this is too important an issue not to get right.



About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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