Welcome for UK government's green homes plan

Posted: 12 February 2009

The UK Government's announcement today on plans to radically slash emissions and cut fuel bills from UK homes has been widely welcomed by environmental groups.

Under the plans, all UK households would have a green makeover by 2030, reducing both carbon emissions and cutting energy bills. Home owners and local communities will also be encouraged to generate their own heat and power through microgeneration technologies.

BedZED ecovillage
BedZED ecovillage
Aerial view of BedZED ecovillage, South London. Photo © Bill Dunster Architects
The main idea is to provide wall and loft insulation for around 400,000 homes each year by 2015. Financial incentives will also be available to help householders fit solar panels, biomass boilers and ground source heat pumps. This would be paid for by a levy on utility companies.

A quarter of all UK homes could benefit from the schemes by 2020, with all households being covered by 2030.

'Great British refurb'

The government says the proposals could help cut household carbon emissions by a third by 2020. This would make a big contribution to the the government's target to reduce UK emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. At present, over a quarter of UK's carbon emissions result from heating and powering UK homes.

Ed Milliband, UK climate and energy secretary, said: "We need to move from incremental steps forward on household energy efficiency to a comprehensive national plan - the Great British refurb." He said the programme would pay for itself over time in reduced bills.

Commenting on the strategy, which will form the basis for months of consultation. WWF said the Government's emphasis on tackling the energyefficiency of UK homes is a welcome step forward in the battle against climate change.

Colin Butfield, Head of Campaigns at WWF-UK said: "A mass retrofit programme for the UK is critical to the UK achieving our carbon budgettargets, and the Government must act quickly to implement some of the solutions outlined in this consultation. Whilst we welcome the overalllevel of ambition, WWF urges the Government to provide a clear steer on the delivery and financial mechanisms for achieving these targets. We urgently need to see some substance behind the headlines to put us on track to meeting our climate change targets."

WWF is concerned that there is no indication of extra funding to roll out these plans and believes there needs to be a vast increase in additional Government financing.

Colin Butfield adds: "Tackling the energy efficiency of our homes is the most cost-effective way to tackle climate change and the payback for homeowners and the environment in the long term will make it more than worthwhile... Now we need to see funding for this strategy as a matter of urgency."

Thousands of jobs'

Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins also welcomed the announcement. "At long last Ministers appear to have woken up to the need for huge emissionscuts from our houses - too much energy is being wasted cooking the planet, ather than heating our homes" he said.

"An ambitious target to cut household emissions by a third by 2020 is certainly needed to help meet the challenge we face - but this won't be achieved if we wait four years for major work to begin.

"An urgent and comprehensive green homes programme must be a central part of Government plans to kick-start the economy.

"A huge programme to slash energy waste and install small scale renewable energy systems could create tens of thousands of new green jobs and exciting business opportunities.

"And it would also cut fuel bills, end fuel poverty and reduce our reliance on coal, gas and oil. "The green revolution really can start at home - but it must start now."

'Help for industry'

The Combined Heat and Power Association (CHPA), said that while offering massive help for homeowners, the government's plan does little for industries struggling to manage energy costs and rising carbon emissions.

Graham Meeks, Director of the CHPA said: "The announcement is great news for communities and householders who will see a step change in ambition to reduce CO2 emissions and heating costs. But rather alarmingly, the opportunity to secure similar savings in industry and to protect vital manufacturing jobs appears to have been overlooked.

"Unless the Government acts now and commits to an effective and ongoing package of fiscal stimulus for combined heat and power (CHP) then there is a real risk that manufacturing industries will simply be frozen out of this important new initiative to decarbonise heat."

The CHPA says that heat use accounts for 47 per cent of UK's total CO2 emissions. "The Government's own analysis suggests that as much as 43 per cent of these emissions are from the industrial sector, roughly the same amount caused by domestic heat use."

Both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have proposed giving an allowance of up to £6,500 to every household in the UK for energy efficiency improvements. Under the Conservatives' Warm Homes strategy, the aim would be to upgrade more than two million homes a year for 10 years, with the contracts going to regional building companies rather than large national companies.