FOR THE SAME COST as the refurbishment of the Westminster parliament, the UK government could lift 4.4 million UK homes to decent levels of energy efficiency through a mass retrofitting programme, according to analysis from the New Economics Foundation (NEF).

The analysis finds that these home upgrades could save families on average at least £345 a year on their energy bills.

Last month, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced measures to cushion the blow of soaring energy bills. But analysis from NEF has found that when the energy price cap and national insurance rise in April, despite the council tax rebate, and higher minimum wages, the poorest 10 per cent of families will be £420 worse off in annual terms, losing 2.5 per cent of their disposable income. The analysis finds that all families will be become poorer in the UK on average, with the lowest income households being hit proportionately harder than middle-income families, even after government support measures.

But longer term, NEF argues that the UK must improve energy security to lower energy bills, including through a Great Homes Upgrade which would retrofit millions of UK homes to make them warm and energy efficient. The analysis finds that upgrading the UK’s draughty housing can lock in savings in energy bills for years to come. NEF is calling on the government to commit to bring every home in the UK up to a good energy efficiency standard by 2030 as part of a Great Homes Upgrade.

The campaign is calling for the chancellor to announce the following package of measures in his upcoming budget:

  • An additional public investment of £11.7 billion for home insulation measures and low-carbon heating solutions over the rest of this parliament.
  • Steer cheap bank credit towards home retrofits by working with the Bank of England to create a green term funding scheme incentivising lenders to offer cheap loans and green mortgages to support home.
  • A fairer tax system where stamp duty is reduced according to how efficient a home is, and VAT is equalised for all retrofitting works at five per cent, provided the whole property is brought above certain EPC thresholds.

NEF argues that these measures, if implemented, will initiate the largest home retrofitting programme in UK’s history and considerably cut UK reliance on imported natural gas. NEF estimates suggest that basic insulation measures alone can completely eliminate Russian imports and further reduce dependence on other nations.

As part of the Great Homes Upgrade campaign, 25 organisations including Fuel Poverty Action, Greenpeace and the Centre for Ageing Better, have signed a joint letter to the chancellor, organised by NEF, Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN), E3G, Friends of the Earth, Green Jobs Alliance and Citizens UK, calling on him to include a national home retrofitting programme in his upcoming spring budget. Today, the same day that the government’s climate advisers will respond to the Heat and Buildings Strategy, 50 people from these organisations will be gathering outside the Treasury today to hand in the letter and promote the benefits of upgrading the UK’s homes.

Chaitanya Kumar, head of environment and the just transition at the New Economics Foundation, said: We all want to be able to come home to a place which is warm, safe and comfortable. But in the UK, this most basic of needs hasn’t been looked after, and this spring many people will be struggling to pay their energy bills – with the poorest families hit hardest. This government hasn’t taken responsibility for improving our housing, which is draughty, wastes energy, and relies on fossil fuels that pollute our communities and our atmosphere. Upgrading Britain’s housing would mean that everyone can make sure their home is well-insulated and heated by clean, green energy.”

Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, said: I fully support NEF’s Great Homes Upgrade Plan. Delivering warmer homes, lower household bills, and good jobs across the country is a no-brainer, and that is why a Labour government would fund a house by house, street by street 10-year home insulation and retrofit plan.”

Sara Edmonds, coordinator at Architects Climate Action Network, said: Our homes are responsible for around 20 per cent of total UK emissions. The UK has one of the oldest and leakiest housing stocks in the world. We believe that it is imperative that a national retrofit strategy based on improving the fabric of our buildings is essential. Without this more people will be plunged into fuel poverty and the UK will not meet its legally binding targets to reduce emissions.”

Juliet Phillips, senior policy adviser at E3G, said: Energy security starts at home – this means a nationwide retrofit scheme to reduce our energy bills and reliance on fossil gas. The chancellor can seize the opportunity at the spring statement to supercharge warmer, healthier and greener homes. As other European countries take ambitious steps to get off gas, the UK must show leadership through an ambitious new energy approach which puts families, workers and communities at the heart.”

Sana Yusuf, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: In order to meet our national climate targets we need to reduce our dependence on dirty, damaging fossil fuels, and this can be significantly helped by improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s old and poorly insulated housing stock.

An immensely volatile global gas market means that people are paying through the nose to heat their homes right now, and millions are facing a future of financial hardship. Retrofitting homes so that they retain more heat, and for longer, will not only help to bring down bills and cut harmful emissions, but will k.eep the most vulnerable people safer and healthier, too.”

* Read the full analysis here

* Read the letter to Rishi Sunak here .

.* More on the Great Homes Upgrade campaign here.

* Source: New Economics Foundation