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UK aims to upgrade its inefficient homes

By ANGUS McNEICE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-09-30 09:07

A house on a residential street in London, Britain, Sept 27, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Government to help poor families find energy efficiency, mitigate fuel crisis

The United Kingdom government has launched a 1.5-billion-pound ($1.63-billion) program to improve energy efficiency in its housing stock, which is among the worst-performing in Europe.

Around 130,000 low-income homes will receive improvements including new insulation, low-carbon heat pumps, and double glazing, as part of the second phase of the Help to Heat program, the government said on Thursday.

The improvements will lead to estimated energy bill savings of between 400 and 700 pounds per household. This year, Brits have endured the largest increases to their energy bills since records began, brought on by rampant inflation and a surge in gas prices due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"By making homes warmer and cheaper to live in, we are not only transforming the lives of households across England, we are creating huge growth in the economy, backing the green energy sector and supporting thousands of high-skilled jobs," said Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Under the plan, local authorities and social housing providers will be able to submit bids for funding and will deliver upgrades from early next year until spring 2025.

Critics have argued that the UK has massively neglected energy improvements in its housing stock during the past decade. Annual insulation installations peaked in 2012 at 2.3 million, and collapsed the following year when the government removed energy efficiency subsidies.

Analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, or ECIU, estimates that, if left in place, the subsidies would have led to 10 million home improvements during the past decade, and saved the government and taxpayers an estimated 9 billion pounds in annual energy costs on current prices.

The government is now set to put up 18 billion pounds over two years to help people with their bills, and the ECIU argues this level of funding would have been massively reduced if homes were more efficient and required less heating.

A September study from think tank the Institute for Government found that the UK housing stock has the worst energy efficiency in Western Europe. Heat loss over five hours in the average UK home is 3 C, the study found, compared to 2.5 C in France, 2.2 C in Spain, 1.5 C in Italy and 1 C in Germany.

"The UK is paying the price for a decade of failure," authors of the report said. "Improving energy efficiency could make a much bigger difference than energy supply measures in the medium term."

Even when the newly announced measures are included, the UK is some way off meeting targets outlined by the UK Climate Change Committee, which estimates that 17 million homes will need new insulation by 2050, or around 600,000 annually, in order to achieve the government's net-zero emissions ambitions.

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