Major home insulation programme would drastically slash bills

The energy bills of almost eight million households could be slashed by as much as 40% if the government prioritises retrofitting the country’s draughty, heat-leaking homes, according to new predictions.

End Fuel Poverty Coalition members, Friends of the Earth, predict cavity wall insulation can reduce energy consumption by up to 20%, as can loft insulation.

For an average dual fuel household, the savings that could be made are around £750 a year.

New analysis by the environmental campaign group has identified the areas of the country that would most benefit from a massive programme of free loft and cavity wall insulation, broken down by both local authority area and parliamentary constituency.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to implement this policy as part of its upcoming energy review.

The top five local authority areas where most homes could see vast improvements in energy efficiency through the rollout of loft insulation are Birmingham, Leeds, Cornwall, Bradford, and Buckinghamshire.

Similarly, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford and Buckinghamshire are among the top five areas where homes would most benefit from cavity wall insulation, as well as Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

The average household will see energy costs rise by £693 this year, which is expected to climb higher still when the energy regulator re-evaluates the price cap again later this year.

Estimates suggest that one in four households will be plunged into fuel poverty from today as the initial price hike comes into effect. In some parts of the country, this will rise to more than 40% of households.

However, there are 5.7 million homes across the country where loft insulation could help households make significant cost savings, and a further 5.2 million where cavity wall insulation would have a similar effect.

The group has found that the majority (approximately 60%) of homes which could see lower bills through a government energy efficiency programme are in areas where household incomes are below the national average.

Areas with the highest levels of poverty are also twice as likely to have homes requiring better insulation than areas with the highest concentration of wealth, say campaigners.

Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said:

We know that our bills would already be significantly lower had the government not scrapped plans to make UK homes more energy efficient back in 2013. While the government can’t turn back time, it can choose to boost energy efficiency to reduce energy bills now and end the UK’s dependency on imported gas.

A free loft and cavity wall insulation programme, targeted at areas with high levels of fuel poverty, can be rolled out quickly by councils and will make a huge difference for millions of people ahead of next winter. The bonus is that this will also cut carbon emissions.

This programme can and should be funded by a Windfall Tax on profiteering fossil fuel companies. The government must commit to this as part of its upcoming Energy Security Strategy.

Sana Yusuf, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

Sky-rocketing energy costs resulting from today’s price rise have many households wondering how they’ll afford to make ends meet, but without much-needed government intervention the number of people facing extreme financial hardship is shockingly high.

Priority number one has to be protecting our communities from this and future price shocks. It’s crystal clear that our system is broken, and it’s because of the UK’s reliance on highly volatile gas that energy prices have spiralled well out of control.

Extracting more fossil fuels simply isn’t the answer, not even in the short-term, because new developments take decades to become operational, will do nothing to help people struggling now, and will fuel climate breakdown which is already harming millions across the globe.

Clearly, the quickest, cleanest, long-term solutions are already before us. Boosting energy efficiency is a crucial place to start, alongside an ambitious plan to scale up the country’s renewable energy capacity.

Joint call for action on fuel poverty and fossil fuels cut

Civil society groups – including the End Fuel Poverty Coalition – have called for greater action on fuel poverty and to cut fossil fuels in the Government’s upcoming Energy Independence Plan

37 organisations spanning fuel poverty, social justice and environmental campaigns wrote to the government on 15 March 2022 calling for greater support for vulnerable households and for decarbonisation to help bolster the UK’s energy security in the imminent Energy Independence Plan and Spring Statement.

The joint letter, addressed to the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Business Secretary, calls for immediate extra support for households facing huge energy price rises, scaled up measures to reduce our gas use and a shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Measures called for include targeted support that covers the expected rise in energy bills for households on low incomes, long term funding and support for insulation and heat pumps, an expansion of wind and solar energy, and a commitment to rule out new North Sea oil and gas and keep the fracking ban in place.

The letter calls on the government to “ensure the upcoming energy independence plan protects vulnerable households, lowers bills, tackles the climate emergency, addresses air pollution, and gets the UK off gas.”

Juliet Phillips, Senior Policy Advisor at E3G said:

Green homes are the most obvious energy security solution which no one is talking about. Energy security starts at home: this means supercharging a renovation wave to cut energy bills and permanently reduce the exposure of families to volatile international gas markets – boosting energy efficiency and rolling out electric heat pumps. The Chancellor and Prime Minister must seize the moment and push forward an ambitious, long-term plan to support warmer, healthier homes which are cheaper to run.

Rebecca Newsom, Head of Politics at Greenpeace UK said:

This is a fossil fuel crisis, and new fossil fuels from the likes of fracking or new North Sea oil and gas aren’t going to solve our problems. We can reach true energy freedom and stand up to Putin, but that needs the government to back properly funded measures to support households, accelerate renewables and properly fund home upgrades to reduce our use of gas altogether. Otherwise this risks being yet another plan that props up our dependence on volatile and expensive fossil fuels at just the moment we can least afford it.

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact, Save the Children UK said:

 The cost-of-living crisis, fuelled by soaring energy prices, is totally unsustainable and is hitting the lowest-income families the hardest.

Parents are telling us that they’re struggling to meet basic needs, leaving them having to make impossible choices between heating their homes and buying clothes for their children, and children are paying the price.  Without action, things are only going to get harder.

In the upcoming Spring Statement, the Chancellor has an opportunity to ease this burden on families by uprating benefits in line with April’s inflation rate, and invest to keep homes warm and bring fuel bills down.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition added:

We’re now seeing the dire consequences of the energy bill crisis come to fruition.

Up and down the country people are scared about how they will make ends meet come 1 April 2022.

A British Medical Journal paper published last week also set out the frightening health consequences for people living in cold, damp homes.

We need greater urgent financial assistance throughout 2022/23 for those in fuel poverty and a long term plan that will rapidly improve energy efficiency of homes across the country.