UK insulation scheme would take 300 years to meet government targets, say critics
The government’s home insulation scheme would take 190 years to upgrade the energy efficiency of the UK’s draughty housing stock, and 300 years to meet the government’s own targets to reduce fuel poverty, according to industry calculations.
Critics of the Great British Insulation Scheme, which aims to insulate 300,000 homes a year over the next three years, have raised concerns that the plan does not go far enough to reach the 19m UK homes that need better insulation.
The Labour party added that it would fail to address the government’s “disastrous record on heating our homes”: the rate of energy efficiency upgrades is 20 times lower than under the last Labour government.
The UK Business Council for Sustainable Development has calculated that the pace of the new scheme, announced as part of a wide-ranging energy security strategy last week, would take almost 200 years to reach the homes in need of upgrades.
The scheme would take another 100 years to meet the government’s own targets for improving the home energy efficiency of households living in fuel poverty in England alone, according to fuel poverty charity National Energy Action.
“We simply don’t have that long to act,” said Jason Longhurst, chair of the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Matt Copeland, head of policy at National Energy Action, said progress on energy efficiency in the UK had “been far too slow for a decade”, and that the new scheme was “not well targeted at fuel-poor households, who need the most support with their bills”.
He added: “Our own analysis from the most recent set of fuel poverty statistics for England found that it will now take approximately 300 years for the government to hit its statutory target for all fuel-poor homes to reach EPC C – far behind the 2030 deadline.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said that “strong progress is being made to insulate homes” and that the government does “not recognise this analysis”.
Home insulation grants are considered a crucial part of the UK’s plan to become a net-zero-carbon economy by 2050 by making homes more energy-efficient. They would also offer immediate benefits to households by making homes warmer and lowering energy bills. However, the pace of home energy efficiency upgrades has stalled in recent years, leaving almost two-thirds of UK homes in need of better insulation.
The number of UK energy efficiency installations, such as insulating lofts and cavity walls, peaked in 2012 at 2.3m, but under the Conservative government, efficiency programmes were slashed, leading to a slump in home upgrades. By 2021, annual installations were 96% lower, at fewer than 100,000.
Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, accused the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, of failing to act despite the sharp rise in home energy bills because of rocketing market prices after the war in Ukraine.
“One of the reasons that energy bills are so high is the Conservatives’ disastrous record on heating our homes. Energy efficiency rates are now 20 times lower than under the last Labour government, but Rishi Sunak is failing to act,” he said.
The Labour party has put forward plans for a large-scale energy efficiency drive to make sure all of the UK’s 27m homes are properly insulated. If elected to government, Labour would aim to upgrade the energy efficiency of 2m households in the first year of a decade-long £60bn scheme that could save households £400 on bills annually.
The party claims that by the end of the decade, 450,000 jobs would be created by installing energy-saving measures such as loft insulation and double glazing, renewable and low carbon technologies.
“Labour’s warm homes plan would upgrade the 19m homes that need it, cutting bills and creating thousands of good jobs for electricians and engineers across the country,” Miliband said.
A government spokesperson said: “The Great British Insulation Scheme will support the installation of energy efficiency measures to around 300,000 homes. It is in addition to the £6.6bn we have committed in this parliament, and the additional £6bn of investment to 2028, to help cut emissions from homes and buildings.”