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The energy bill crisis shows the need to “get off gas” as fast as possible, campaigners have said as the price cap is hiked.
Ensuring all UK homes are well insulated by 2030 and accelerating the rollout of low carbon, electric heat pumps to replace gas boilers should be the country’s “number one infrastructure priority”, the Government is being urged.
It would also be the best way to “level up” the UK, according to Ed Matthew, campaigns director at the climate change think tank E3G.
While UK energy bills are set to rise to close to £2,000 per household in April, analysis suggests that without the energy efficiency measures installed in the UK’s inefficient, heat-leaking homes in the past, bills could rise to as much as £3,000 a year on average.
The analysis by the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), which aims to accelerate the shift to a clean, reliable and efficient energy future, shows that if the UK had not installed heat and power saving measures in properties over the past two decades, home energy use would be 46% higher overall.
It also points to research from the UK Energy Research Centre which highlights the potential to halve energy consumption in UK homes through installing wall and loft insulation, heat pumps and heat networks and more efficient appliances and lighting.
It comes after a report from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said that cuts to energy efficiency funding in 2013 will cost millions of households around £170 each when energy prices spike this spring.
The UK has among the oldest and least energy efficient housing stock in Europe.
Government support for installing energy efficiency measures is levied on fuel bills, along with other green charges such as paying for development of renewable electricity – though high power prices mean contracts for wind farms are now paying back money to the consumer.
While there have been calls to cut green levies on bills, the RAP analysis warns that such a move would slow down the transformation of the housing stock and leave more people exposed to future price rises.
Mr Matthew said: “The energy bill crisis is proof that we need to get off gas as fast as possible.
“What we need is a new national mission to ensure all UK homes are well insulated by 2030 and to accelerate the rollout of heat pumps, making these measures free for all low-income households.
“That would slash energy bills and emissions whilst boosting jobs and the economy. It should be the UK’s number one infrastructure priority and is the best way to level up the UK.
And in the wake of the Levelling Up White Paper, he warned: “The most energy leaking housing stock is in the north of England and the failure to put a home insulation mission at the centre of the Government’s new levelling up strategy is an own goal.”
Jan Rosenow, director of RAP, said: “Insulation is absolutely critical for meeting our net zero climate goals. Without it, decarbonising heating will be more expensive, require more resources and be much slower.
“Not only that, insulation makes people more comfortable, saves us money on our energy bills, and insulates households from future energy price rises.
“What is missing is a well-funded energy efficiency policy for all households that enables people to invest in making their homes more energy efficient.
And he said: “For a decade we did not have such a programme and it is a great opportunity for the UK to show leadership.”