It’s too complicated to get homes ready for net-zero, consumer groups tell PM

·4-min read
The Government has set out ambitious targets for net-zero ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
The Government has set out ambitious targets for net-zero ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

It is currently too complicated and risky for people to adapt their homes for net zero, consumer and industry groups have warned in an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Citizens Advice Whic ?, Aldersgate Group and the Federation of Master Builders are urging the Government to work with them to address the obstacles currently faced by consumers and learn from previous lessons or risk undermining the UK’s ability to decarbonise its 29 million homes.

They warn that installing low-carbon heating, upgrading insulation or installing smart technologies is currently time-consuming, confusing and stressful.

Researching and choosing the right technology, finding a reputable installer and having the work completed “demands huge amounts of knowledge, time and effort”.

The process often goes wrong and and is beset by problems, including poor installation, technologies not working as expected, and people facing difficulties fixing things when they go wrong, the coalition warns.

By getting things right now, the Government can give people the confidence to make changes and play their part in getting to net zero

Clare Moriarty, Citizens Advice

Avoiding the mistakes of past energy efficiency schemes, which left too many people struggling with damp and mould due to poorly installed insulation, and other long-term problems that were expensive, disruptive and distressing to resolve, must be done to ensure public trust.

They also say current consumer protections are not ready for the pace and scale of the work needed to improve millions of UK homes.

Householders need more accessible and unbiased information to help make the right changes to their homes, consumer protection that is fit for purpose, and, in the case of many, financial support to make changes to their homes, the letter says.

The letter comes as a separate study from the National Housing Federation (NHF) calculates that England’s 25 million homes produce 58.5 million tonnes of CO2 every year, compared with the 27 million cars in use in England emitting 56 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

The report says emissions from homes are so high due to a combination of gas central heating and poor insulation.

The NHF is calling on the Government to spend £3.8 billion in retrofitting social housing at the upcoming Spending Review.

It is vital that energy efficiency and low-carbon heat schemes are placed on a long-term footing, so that industry can invest, train its workforce, and grow consumer confidence

Nick Molho, Aldersgate Group

Citizens Advice chief executive, Clare Moriarty, said: “Our evidence is clear. Right now, making green changes to homes is too confusing and too often things go wrong for those trying to do the right thing. The public are behind the net-zero transition, but they need the right information and tools, particularly when it comes to adapting their home.

“By getting things right now, the Government can give people the confidence to make changes and play their part in getting to net zero.”

Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at Which?, said: “Decarbonising millions of households across the UK is a vital, but complex component of the Government’s net-zero strategy, and its success will depend on ensuring consumers are supported in transitioning to low carbon heating systems, which will involve radical changes to their home.

“The level of support consumers need must not be underestimated, and we are urging the Government to ensure its net-zero policy has provisions to help consumers navigate the heating market, through access to the right information, strong consumer protections, and if needed, financial support.”

Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “The Government has a significant opportunity with the upcoming Net Zero Strategy to set a clear direction of travel through predictable regulatory targets, easily accessible policy incentives and much improved information and local support measures.

“It is vital that energy efficiency and low-carbon heat schemes are placed on a long-term footing, so that industry can invest, train its workforce, and grow consumer confidence.”

NHF chief executive, Kate Henderson, said: “If we don’t start making serious progress on decarbonising and retrofitting our homes, we won’t achieve the Government’s target of net-zero by 2050. It’s critical that we act now.”

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