Government must focus on energy efficiency to tackle cost of living crisis

23 March 2022, Ross Matthewman

Responding to the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, CIEH has called on the UK Government to prioritise energy efficiency in efforts to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Earlier, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said that prices rose across food, clothing and footwear and a range of products and services last month. It reported that UK inflation has now climbed to a new 30-year high with soaring energy costs, fuel bills, and food prices, driving an acute cost of living crisis. Consumer prices rose by 6.2% in the year to February, up from 5.5% in January, representing the steepest rise in inflation since March 1992, putting household budgets under intense pressure.

Increasing energy prices are also responsible for an estimated 2.5m households with children estimated to be in fuel poverty from 1 April 2022.

In today’s Spring Statement, the Chancellor set out ways that the UK Government is taking action to mitigate against the sharp price increases including:

  • 0% VAT on energy-saving materials, such as solar panels or heat pumps.
  • A rise in the threshold for paying National Insurance by £3,000 from July
  • A 5p cut to fuel duty
  • Funds for councils to support vulnerable households to be doubled to £1bn from April

However, CIEH has called for more to be done on energy efficiency and to build on the UK’s renewable energy sources.

Dr Phil James, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health said: 

“The continuing energy price crisis points to a need to accelerate our move away from gas. CIEH is calling for the expansion of renewable energy sources and a significant shift of energy supply away from fossil fuels.

In the short term, the best solution to the current crisis is to use less gas – through better energy efficiency and insulation. The VAT cut on energy-saving materials is welcome, but the Government should fulfil the Conservative Party manifesto commitments to funding energy efficiency in existing schemes, including more funding for the Home Upgrade Grant, which should be available to all households and be a long term source of funding.

Rising costs affecting the basic cost of living are likely to exacerbate health inequalities around the country and mean a step back for the Government’s Levelling Up agenda. The Chancellor’s additional funding for vulnerable households is a start but more must be done to ensure that people on low incomes are protected from the worst impacts of the cost of living crisis.”

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