Cutting household carbon & energy bills

Based on our practical experience of working on existing housing as well as new build, we’re campaigning for changes in government policy which would see millions of UK homes given energy saving upgrades.

Policies for greening Britain’s homes

Houses last for decades, even centuries. If we want to drastically reduce carbon emissions, it’s not enough just to make new homes low or zero carbon. We have to retrofit the existing stock of heat-leaking homes, because most of them will still be with us by 2050. They need to become much more energy efficient and get more of their energy from clean, renewable sources.

There’s also fuel poverty. The UK is a wealthy country but far too many people on low incomes, many elderly, struggle to afford their energy bills and keep warm in winter. Making their homes waste far less heat is a large part of the answer.

Bioregional has run several partnership projects to retrofit existing homes with energy saving measures and renewable energy supplies, building up expertise in this area. We want to use the lessons learnt to change national policy so that the entire existing stock of homes can be retrofitted over the next two decades, slashing carbon emissions and fuel poverty.

Two of these projects relate to the Government-backed Green Deal, a loan scheme launched in 2013 which allows people to pay off the cost of a major energy saving package of measures through an extra charge on their electricity bill. The fundamental idea is that the savings in electricity and gas bills following a Green Deal retrofit more than outweigh the loan repayments.

  • In 2010/11 Bioregional, Sutton Council and B&Q were commissioned by Government to trial the Green Deal. Home owners were given interest-free loans to make energy saving improvements to their property and could also benefit from a 40% grant towards the cost. Nearly 70 households took part and the average capital spending was around £13,000 each.
  • In 2013 Bioregional joined with Cherwell District Council to run a Green Deal promotion scheme in Bicester, Oxfordshire funded by the Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). This delivered 100 free Green Deal appraisals – energy surveys which are the essential first step in choosing a Green Deal package. We went on to install energy saving measures in 14 homes and two small businesses including enhanced insulation, new gas-fired boilers, LED lighting and solar energy.

Using this experience, we identified major shortcomings in the Green Deal which were obstacles to its success. UK-wide uptake through 2013 and 2014 has been very low compared to earlier government expectations. There are problems with the rules surrounding the Green Deal and the Government subsidies used to support it.

Working with the Association for the Conservation of Energy, we wrote a report which analysed these problems in depth and proposed feasible solutions. We have discussed our findings with senior DECC civil servants and Ed Davey MP, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. We have also shared our Retrofitting the Green Deal report with leading energy efficiency stakeholders and found that our views and proposed solutions are widely supported.

The Government has made some small changes to the Green Deal, but these do not go far enough to enable it to fulfil its potential and transform the UK’s heat-leaking housing stock. What is needed is a long term, well designed and well promoted subsidy financed by the state or all energy consumers (or both) which attracts millions of home owners and landlords into financing their own Green Deal packages through savings or loans.

Bioregional is part of the Homes Fit For The Future Campaign run by a coalition of NGOs and businesses. This is campaigning for home retrofitting to be a national infrastructure priority with a million homes treated each year.

About the partner 

The Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) was formed in 1981 by several major companies active within the energy conservation industry. It aims to encourage national awareness of the need for and benefits of energy conservation, to help establish a sensible and consistent national policy and programme, and to increase investment in all appropriate energy saving measures. Membership is limited to 24 UK based companies with substantial interest in energy conservation equipment and services. ACE has a parliamentary campaigns unit and a research department investigating energy efficiency in the UK and Europe.