UK’s Net Zero Commitment: A Call for Collaborative Action and Retrofitting
Exploring the impact of policy shifts on the UK's net zero goals and the role of retrofitting.
As advocates for energy efficiency, Snugg recognises both the challenges and progressive steps in the UK's commitment to net zero by 2050. The government's recent policy updates underscore the need for a collaborative and adaptable approach.
Here’s an overview of the recent policy changes:
- The 2028 target for all privately rented homes to achieve an energy efficiency rating of C or better has been revised.
- The goal for 100% low carbon heating installations by 2035 is now set at 80%.
- The 2026 target to phase out off-grid oil boilers has been extended to 2035.
While these adjustments highlight areas for improvement, particularly in addressing the inefficiencies of the UK's housing stock which is among the oldest and most energy-leaking in Western Europe1 – there have been positive developments too. Notably, the increase in the Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant is a step forward, demonstrating the government's ongoing efforts to support greener energy solutions. It's crucial to recognise both these challenges and opportunities as we work towards enhancing our national approach to energy efficiency.
Retrofitting: A Key to Sustainable Future
The benefits of retrofitting are significant and multifaceted2:
- A national retrofit campaign can reduce household energy bills by hundreds of pounds annually.
- It could create over 500,000 high-skilled jobs across the UK.
- Importantly, retrofitting could prevent up to 6,000 avoidable deaths each year by improving thermal comfort in homes.
With 80% of the homes that will exist in 2050 already built, retrofitting is not just beneficial but essential to meet our net zero target. Notably, 71% of emissions from the UK built environment stem from operational emissions. As nearly two-thirds of UK homes have an EPC rating of 'D' or below, retrofitting these homes can significantly reduce daily energy wastage.
The importance of stable government policy
Government policy significantly influences the decisions and behaviours of millions, uniting the country towards common goals, spurring investment, and driving innovation. At Snugg, we understand the importance of long-term, stable policies for achieving our environmental objectives.
Successful examples of such policies include:
The Warm Front Scheme (2000-2013): Assisted 2.3 million low-income and vulnerable households with more efficient heating and insulation improvements.3
The Energy Company Obligation (ECO): Replacing the Warm Front Scheme, this program has supported over 3.5 million home improvements.4
Conversely, the premature end of programmes like The Green Deal and The Green Homes Grant underlines the disruptive impact of policy U-turns, causing confusion and derailing progress.
The fluctuating policies, especially in the housing sector, have led to increased costs for households and reluctance among businesses to invest in green initiatives. This inconsistency hinders our collective journey to net zero.
To realise our environmental goals, it’s essential for the government to foster a stable and sustainable economic environment. This would encourage strategic investments in green energy, resonating with our mission to promote energy efficiency through practical, long-term solutions.
Learning from Scotland's Proposals for a Heat in Buildings Bill
As we discuss the UK's net zero ambitions, it's instructive to look at Scotland's proactive measures. The "Delivering Net Zero for Scotland’s Buildings" consultation highlights their strategies, which can serve as a guide:
Robust Climate Goals: Scotland has legislated targets to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030 and 90% by 2040, aiming for net zero by 2045. This bold legislative framework underscores their serious commitment to environmental goals.
Embracing Clean Heating Solutions: A major focus is transitioning from traditional heating methods to cleaner alternatives, like heat pumps. Scotland recognises the significant impact this shift can have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By 2045, the aim is to completely replace polluting heating systems in homes and buildings, a move that is critical as heating contributes to around 20% of Scotland’s carbon emissions.
Setting New Standards: The consultation proposes legislative changes, expected to start taking effect from 2025, will require new homeowners to switch to clean heating systems within a fixed period after purchase. Additionally, the Scottish Government is contemplating minimum energy efficiency standards for homes, aiming to make them more economical and environmentally friendly to heat.
Engaging the Public in Policy Making: Scotland’s consultation process actively seeks public input, demonstrating a commitment to inclusive policy development.
New Regulations for New Buildings: Starting April 2024, all new buildings in Scotland must have a clean heating system, setting a precedent for future construction standards and sustainable living.
Scotland’s strategies highlight the effectiveness of setting clear goals, embracing technology, and involving the public in environmental policy. This proactive approach offers valuable lessons as we consider the path to net zero in the UK.
Collaboration and Practical Policies for a Greener Future
To align with our net zero goals, we propose:
1. A simpler grants landscape:
Currently, the UK’s approach to delivering grants for energy efficiency improvements is via a complex web of schemes managed by the UK government, devolved governments, local authorities, and place-based initiatives. This makes it incredibly hard for homeowners to understand where to turn for support. We’d like to see the government invest in a single, unified UK-wide framework to empower public and private sector organisations to act, while significantly simplifying the process for homeowners.
2. Accessible Retrofitting Standards:
The current standard for home energy efficiency, PAS2035, has proven to be too complex and expensive for most homeowners. It’s also put pressure on a limited workforce of accredited professionals, leading to long delays. This complexity is a significant barrier to making homes net-zero-ready at an affordable cost. While it may be suitable for publicly funded projects, we need a more pragmatic and cost-effective approach for the ‘able to pay’ sector.
3. Balanced Energy Pricing:
The current price disparity between domestic gas and electricity is a key challenge in the UK’s journey to Net Zero. The difference in cost makes it hard for homeowners to justify switching from cheaper gas-powered boilers to more sustainable energy sources, like heat pumps, which run on electricity.
We want to see the UK government introduce policy to level the playing field and make running a home on electricity-powered energy sources, like heat pumps, more attractive. Reducing the artificial premium of electricity prices must be done if more homeowners are to take up more sustainable energy sources.
4. Clearer policy on carbon credits:
The UK government has made it clear it wants to become a leader in the global voluntary carbon market. This is positive to hear, since simply offering larger grants, which puts an increasing strain on the public purse, can’t be the only way we reach Net Zero.
Introducing a clear carbon credits framework would help to increase finance flows from businesses to homeowners, encouraging the deployment of energy efficiency measures with an added benefit of increased economic growth.
This type of policy creates a win-win situation, encouraging residential decarbonisation, stimulating economic growth, fostering a sustainable future, being a global leader in the voluntary carbon market and, crucially, achieving all of this with minimal cost to the public purse.
Our Collective Responsibility
We call on the government and private sector to embrace retrofitting and sustainable policies. By doing so, we can revitalise our communities, create job opportunities, and make significant strides in energy efficiency and environmental protection.
The scale of the fight against climate change is immense. We need to rally ourselves around net zero and recommit to long-term policy that will reinvigorate homeowners, encourage businesses to invest and inspire other governments to follow suit.
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