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.