Resolution Foundation calls for mandate that all homes must be energy efficient by 2035, while FoE urges government to commit to free insulation
According to a Resolution Foundation report, 40% of England’s housing stock has walls rated poor or very poor; 20% had inefficient roofs; and 10% had poorly graded windows. The problem is worse in large cities like London where 46% of homes have poor-quality walls, and in the 9,000 energy crisis hotspots identified in Friends of the Earth (FoE) research.
Homes in these communities, where energy usage is high and income is below average, lack basic insulation and these families are most at risk of falling into financial hardship because of unaffordable energy costs.
A third of England’s homes pre-date 1946 and typically have no cavity between the inner and outer walls, making them expensive to insulate. Poorly insulated homes cost around £350 more to heat, but with improvements costing roughly £8,000, there’s no financial incentive for homeowners or landlords.
Previous approaches, such as cheap loans, failed to deliver, so the Research Foundation propose a more radical stance to improve energy efficiency by combining targeted financial support for those unable to afford home improvements and a hard deadline for all homes to be EPC C-rated by 2035
“A new carrot-and-stick approach is needed to ensure England’s nine million leaky homes are upgraded,” said Jonny Marshall, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation. “Mandating that all homes must be energy efficient by 2035 can spur homeowners and landlords into action, while a new means test could help around half of households with at least some of the costs of the upgrades, and all of the costs for those with the lowest means.”
“By rolling out a free programme of street-by-street energy efficiency measures, prioritising the most in-need neighbourhoods, we can help to bring bills down quickly.”
Friends of the Earth echoed the proposal in August, urging the government to commit £15 billion to a programme of free insulation which could save households £490-£720 annually.
“By rolling out a free programme of street-by-street energy efficiency measures, prioritising the most in-need neighbourhoods, we can help to bring bills down quickly,” said Mike Childs, Head of Science, Policy and Research, FoE.
"There’s no downplaying how catastrophic this and following winters will be for millions of people if energy bills rise as high as they’re predicted to, unless the government meaningfully intervenes.
“By rolling out a free programme of street-by-street energy efficiency measures, prioritising the most in-need neighbourhoods, we can help to bring bills down quickly, make homes warmer and slash earth-warming emissions."
The Government’s £1 billion ECO+ scheme, launched in November, offers grants for low-cost measures like loft and cavity wall insulation to in-need households and builds on the current ECO scheme targeting those in social housing, on a low-income or in fuel poverty. But National Energy Action (NEA) estimates one-in-three households could be in fuel poverty this winter.
“These households need financial support to insulate and retrofit their homes to bring down their energy bills in the long term,” said Matt Copeland, Head of Policy, NEA. He added that those living in rented accommodation need robust minimum standards to ensure landlords improve their properties to EPC C, for example by insulating walls. “Tenants are often the ones paying the energy bills, so landlords have little incentive to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties unless minimum standards are raised.”
The National Residential Landlords Association estimate a third of all privately rented homes in England were built before 1919, and almost 45% have no cavity walls, making insulation difficult and costly.
“Ultimately, the government needs to provide landlords with certainty about what standards it expects them to meet and by when,” said a NRLA spokesperson.
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