Pressure continues to build behind the energy efficiency agenda


ReportA new report from an alliance of political, civil society and business leaders has called on the Government to make energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority as part of a low carbon economy.

The report – A Brighter, More Secure Future: Low carbon priorities for the new Government – has been published by the Aldersgate Group and sets out key priorities for the Government’s climate and energy policy. One of these is to “make energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority backed up by clear Government co-ordination, infrastructure funds and policies tailored to different categories of energy efficiency measures, including commercial energy efficiency.”

It also calls for clarity on the funding and level of ambition for low carbon technologies beyond 2020, and for the prioritisation of improved energy efficiency in the UK’s infrastructure.

The report calls on a number of high-level figures across several sectors with a vested interest in the climate change and energy efficiency agendas, many of whom are in full-voiced support of making energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority.

Robert Lambe, managing director of Willmott Dixon Energy Services, says in the report: “Retrofitting individual homes in isolation is too costly to be attractive to most householders. It is only through street-by-street or neighbourhood schemes that economies of scale are possible. Government must also build market confidence as significant investment is needed for mass delivery, but engagement has been knocked – not least by the downsizing of the Energy Company Obligations in 2013.

“To tackle these issues, the Government must make home energy efficiency
a major infrastructure priority with a programme that is sufficiently long term and ambitious to encourage industry to invest confidently.”

This message has also been backed by the civil sector. Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Citizens Advice, said: “The Government needs to make home energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority, enabling fair competition for public and private investment and the communication of 
a long-term vision to the public.”

The report also addresses the current Government efforts to increase the levels of energy efficiency measures across the UK, namely the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO) schemes. The Green Deal in particular has come under heavy criticism for months due to low take-up by the public and a failure by the Government to drum up support for the initiative. The Aldersgate Group’s report suggests that drastic changes will be needed to these schemes.

Ms. Gallacher added: “The Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO) are too complex, do not necessarily offer a good deal and have failed to capture consumer interest.” She goes on to suggest correcting the “regressive nature of ECO funding”, introducing a minimum energy efficiency standard for private rental homes and embedding value of energy efficiency in the housing market.

Jade Lewis, advocacy leader for Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland, said: “Although the Government has implemented various measures, the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation
(or equivalents) should be severely strengthened. Additional long-term drivers are needed to stimulate market transformation, for example the use
of council tax reductions for homes with higher EPC ratings. Saint-Gobain also supports the Energy Bill Revolution’s campaign for the treatment of retrofit to be a national infrastructure priority.”

She added: “Initiatives alone will not be enough – they need to be carefully marketed to the consumer to raise awareness of what is available and the benefits they offer.”

Dame Fiona Woolf CBE, an energy lawyer for CMS Cameron McKenna and Aldersgate Group – and former Lord Mayor of London – said: “The lack of progress on energy efficiency means it must be prioritised by the next Government.”

In addition, the report suggests making energy efficiency attractive to homeowners through incentives such as a reduction in stamp duty; establishing an ‘existing building hub’ to unite industry and build upon existing experience to overcome the day-to-day problems and increase quality and standards; and zero or low interest loans.

John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK Green Building Council, said: “This report demonstrates the breadth of support – across business, academia and civil society – for an urgent and well-overdue national energy efficiency programme, to transform our inefficient homes and buildings. It is particularly timely given the real doubts that are surfacing about the Government’s commitment to the green economy.

“Government faces a number of key decisions on major infrastructure projects, but none deliver the same package of benefits as energy efficiency, which should be considered a national infrastructure priority. It is the original economic no-brainer – bringing down energy costs for households and businesses, stimulating economic growth and improving the UK’s energy security.”

The Aldersgate Group’s document follows several advances for the energy efficiency argument in recent weeks resulting from the recent Committee on Climate Change report and SNP plans to make energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority in Scotland.

To read A brighter, more secure future: Low carbon priorities for the new Government in full, click here.

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