1.Of the 29 million existing homes across the UK, at least 19 million still need to be made low carbon, low-energy and resilient to a changing climate. Domestic properties account for 30 per cent of energy use and around 19 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK.1 Energy efficiency is a vital first step toward decarbonising homes, making them warmer and cheaper to run, improving health inequalities and tackling fuel poverty. Newly-constructed buildings are more energy efficient: but 80 per cent of the buildings that will be with us in 2050 have already been built, and will require retrofitting to become energy efficient.2
2.The task is colossal. In England alone over ten million owner occupied homes and over three million private rented sector landlords need to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes to become A, B or C rated by 2035 for the Government’s to achieve its climate aspirations (figure 1). Many homeowners are unaware that their involvement is needed and will need financial support and advice to upgrade and retrofit their homes.
Figure 1: EPC rating by tenure, England.3
3.Decarbonising existing homes presents a significant opportunity to build a domestic supply chain and skills base and to deliver on the Government’s levelling up ambitions. Investment in energy efficiency measures can provide a significant kickstart to the economy in the aftermath of the covid-19 pandemic, since it can create supply chains and provide jobs across the entire country at all levels and for a wide range of skills.
4.In May 2020 we launched our inquiry to examine the Government’s progress on energy efficiency measures and to provide an update on the inquiry into energy efficiency undertaken by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in the 2017 Parliament.4 We received 134 written responses and held four public evidence sessions, hearing from 27 witnesses including academics, builders and trade associations, NGOs, social housing providers, landlords, financial institutions and Government advisers. While we were gathering our evidence, the UK Government made several relevant announcements: the Green Homes Grant was launched last July, as part of the Government’s covid recovery package; the Prime Minister announced a Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution;5 the Chancellor of the Exchequer published a National Infrastructure Strategy6 and the outcome of the 2020 Spending Review; and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy issued an Energy White Paper.7 Each of these initiatives are examined in this report.
5.We conducted an online survey for members of the public who had attempted to access the Green Homes Grant: it received 510 submissions. To conclude the oral evidence to the inquiry, we heard from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, then Minister for Energy at the Department for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy, Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP, Minister of Housing at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Kemi Badenoch MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.
6.Our work on this inquiry links to our work on technological innovations and climate change—in the course of which we have examined low carbon heating from hydrogen and heat pumps—and our work on greening the covid recovery and on green jobs. In this report we concentrate on measures to reduce the demand for space heating through the upgrading of heating systems and increased insulation.8 We have not examined types of low carbon heating in detail, as we have examined them in other work and they are presently the subject of a parallel inquiry by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.9 This report focuses principally on the application in England of energy efficiency measures promoted by the UK Government.
1 Residential emissions were 19% of carbon emissions in 2019. BEIS. 2020. UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions provisional figures; 29% of energy use in 2019, 29.9% when temperature corrected. BEIS. 2020. Consumption Data tables
4 BEIS Committee, 2019. Energy efficiency, buildings towards net zero. HC1730
5 HM Govt. 2020. The ten point plan for a green industrial revolution.
6 HM Treasury. 2020. National Infrastructure Strategy
7 BEIS. 2020. Energy White Paper: Powering our net zero future
8 Space heating is the dominant driver of energy consumption in existing homes (making up 63 per cent of annual energy consumption), followed by hot water and appliance demand. BEIS. 2018. Energy Consumption in the UK
9 BEIS Committee. 2020. Decarbonising heat in homes
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