3 ways the UK can cut household emissions faster
A new report, commissioned by WWF And Scottish Power, suggests the UK is behind on progress to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.
The UK government set a goal to reduce energy demand by 15% between 2021 and 2030. And they’ve called out housing as one of the key areas to focus on.
This focus will help the environment, but it could help homeowners’ wallets too. The report suggests that homes with solar panels and other low-carbon technologies could save up to £2,300 a year on their energy bills compared to homes without. And we know from our own research that improving a home’s energy efficiency can boost its value too.
But the report shows that progress isn’t happening fast enough to meet the government’s target. In addition, it points out that the government’s target is lower than the 20% reduction recommended by the UK’s Climate Change Committee which is independent to the government.
We’ve read the report and have identified three areas where improvements can be made to get the UK back on track.
Install more heat pumps
Heat pumps are key to reducing carbon emissions. Not only are they more energy-efficient than most traditional heating systems, but they can also be powered by other renewable technologies such as solar panels. This allows some heat pumps to generate 5kWh of heat using just 1kWh of green electricity.
The report estimates that just 1.5 million of the UK’s 25 million homes will need heat pumps to meet the government’s 15% emissions reduction target. But it points out that the government’s currently on track to deliver just one sixth of this number (approximately 250,000 homes).
Catching up won’t be easy. Heat pumps aren’t being installed quickly enough for several reasons, including:
- a lack of public awareness of the technology
- a shortage of heat pump installers
- heat pump manufacturers not expanding quickly enough
- economic uncertainty putting people off from spending the relatively high upfront cost
So, what can the government do? As well as running a new public awareness campaign about the merits of heat pumps, the government could introduce incentives to encourage companies to invest in manufacturing facilities and training new installers.
Insulate more homes
One of the most effective ways to reduce a home’s carbon emissions is to improve its insulation. Without adequate insulation, a home will quickly lose heat and reduce the effectiveness of even the greenest energy generation technologies such as heat pumps and solar panels.
According to the report, solid wall insulation can reduce a home’s heating demand by 13%. This is followed by cavity wall insulation (10%), floor insulation (8%) and loft insulation (4%).
But despite the unquestionable benefit of insulation, the report states that the government’s on track to insulate just one sixth (approximately 900,000) of the 5.4 million homes required to meet the Climate Change Committee’s suggested 20% emissions reduction target.
Fortunately, the government has already taken some steps to catch up. The £1 billion Great British Insulation Scheme Grant (previously known as ECO+) is intended to help 400,000 people insulate their homes. And requirements for rented homes to have a minimum EPC rating of C will encourage landlords to install better insulation. But this still isn't enough to make up for the shortfall.
To catch up, the government could consider further grants or loans to support homeowners who are able to pay but are put off by the large upfront cost of some installations. It could also consider an awareness campaign to encourage more people to insulate their homes.
In the meantime, homeowners can take things into their own hands by using Snugg to see how insulation could improve their home’s energy efficiency. They can also discover grants and funding options they may be eligible for without leaving the site.
Train more installers
If the UK is going to meet its energy reduction targets, it’s going to need more installers. Research estimates that just 200,000 people have the relevant training which is only half of the 400,000 needed to help retrofit 19 million homes by 2035.
According to a House of Lords committee, a shortage of installers has hampered the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which subsidises air and ground source heat pump installations, with just £55 million of the £150 million available grant claimed by homeowners.
But some city councils have already taken steps to deal with the issue at a local level. When a shortage of installers prevented Portsmouth City Council from retrofitting its housing stock with heat pumps, the council helped set up the NetZero Training Hub to train people in the necessary skills.
To address this issue, the government should consider a longer-term action plan to meet these targets. Initiatives so far have been sporadic and short-term, and this hasn’t given the industry the certainty it needs to invest in hiring and training 200,000 installers. It could also increase funding to help smaller businesses hire apprentices, which has so far been limited to those with deep pockets, such as larger housing developers.
What can you do?
Fortunately, there are lots of ways you could make your home more energy efficient if you find yourself waiting some time for an installer – some of which you can get started on yourself, today!
To find out the type of energy efficiency measures are best for your home, and to discover which grants and payment options you’re eligible for, get your free energy improvement plan from Snugg.
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