Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced this week that hundreds of thousands of homeowners will receive vouchers of up to £5000 for insulation and energy saving home improvements. Set to launch in September, the £2bn Green Homes Grant will be targeted towards improving the energy efficiency of existing housing and other buildings, reducing fuel bills and creating green jobs, but this needs to be part of a much-bigger and longer-term strategy to improve our underperforming housing stock and to meet our net-zero targets.
The £2bn grants form part of a wider £3bn green investment package announced in the chancellor’s summer ‘mini-budget’ statement to support efforts to rebuild the UK economy post-covid-19. The funding programme will also involve insulation in public buildings such as schools and hospitals and retrofitting low carbon heating technology to social housing. Whilst, sadly, 8.5 million homes in the rental sector are excluded, the treasury has said at least 140,000 jobs will be supported by this new green recovery scheme.
We cautiously welcome the government announcement, which is an essential step towards the improvement of existing housing. Good insulation, properly installed, is the most cost-effective way to save energy in homes and buildings. However, this one-year retrofit scheme has a limited time-frame and cannot simply be a one-off. It is crucial that further incentives for energy saving are planned and introduced immediately this one comes to an end. As with all these initiatives, the devil will be in the detail.
The issue of quality control and accountability will be extremely important throughout this scheme; it will be critical that all energy saving measures are professionally and correctly installed by accredited installers and perform to the required standard intended. These retrofit measures must also contribute to the government’s longer term aim of bringing all homes up to EPC Band C by 2035.
The role of PIR and PUR insulation in achieving energy efficient buildings, and therefore a sustainable future, must not be underplayed. By using PIR insulation with its high thermal efficiency, it will make a difference between a building’s success or its failure.
With UK housing among the coldest and least efficient in Europe, many insulation manufacturers, from individual companies to trade bodies, are fully committed to adopting sustainable design and installation methods to help deliver better-performing buildings and help the UK achieve the ambitions of its net-zero climate change targets.
Whether new build or retrofitting, everyone has a right to live in a healthy home, fully insulated, with better ventilation, windows and doors and more efficient heating systems. This is essential if the UK is to meet the net-zero target.
We look forward to more to come from government, not just in terms of addressing our energy-deficient rental sector but also in terms of ensuring the quality and energy performance of the whole of our housing stock.
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