/ Home & Energy

Keeping it local – a better approach to energy efficiency

insulation

With millions of homes leaking cash every winter, we’re calling on the next Government to radically re-think its energy efficiency strategy. What would convince you to make your home more energy efficient?

I try to be eco-friendly (I walk or get public transport everywhere, always buy the green option, and can’t remember the last time I picked up a plastic bag at the supermarket) and would be really keen to make my home as energy efficient as possible. As a long-term renter, though, there don’t seem to be any attractive options available to help me sort out my home.

Our latest report, A Local Approach to Energy Efficiency [PDF], looks at the widespread effect this has across the country. You may not know it, but UK homes are among the least energy efficient in Europe. And poor energy efficiency isn’t just bad for your wallet – it’s also bad for your health and the environment.

Energy efficient homes

Up to 5.4 million homes still don’t have their cavity walls filled, which can save you up to £140 a year on your energy bills. And then more than 7 million homes still need their lofts fully lagged. It’s also estimated that the NHS spends £1.36bn each year treating illnesses caused and exacerbated by cold homes.

Successive governments have failed to do enough to tackle the problem, and we’re calling for the next Government to crack on and give us an energy efficiency record to be proud of.

Action from the next Government

Having spent some time working for a local charity for older people on fuel poverty, I’ve seen how brilliant local agencies can be at getting help to those who need it the most.

We want the new Government to switch to a long-term local approach, where local authorities lead the roll-out of energy saving measures through local partnerships involving housing associations and even GPs. These partnerships will be better at ensuring that support gets to those who need it the most, at getting people interested in schemes and obtaining their trust. A street by street approach can also result in economies of scale, which is important when resource is scarce.

We’re also recommending better cost control to deliver value for money, more joined-up government working, and long-term planning to help bring down prices on bills. We also think there needs to be an overhaul of the Green Deal, after just 9,600 plans have been taken out since the scheme launched.

Have you ever had energy efficiency measures installed? If so, what convinced you to do it? If not, what could the next government do to help?

Comments
Member

I think this is absolutely the right approach. Local authority leadership, a flexible approach, and a practical solution for each deficient property has to be the way forward. I would suggest we start with homes occupied by the elderly and those with the lowest EPC ratings then find a way of bringing them up to a reasonable and affordable standard of warmth and comfort using a menu of measures that suit the property and the residents. In this respect, the best should not be allowed to become the enemy of the good: a workable insulation project rather than one that ticks every box on a compliance sheet should be the aim. In my view it wouldn’t matter if the residents made very little financial contribution; just getting it done could take the pressure of the state in various ways and the investment is there for the life of the property.

Member

Landlord could be made responsible for bringing their properties up to an enforceable minimum standard of insulation as a requirement to let a property. They will profit from any improvements in the future. Home owners should be educated in the financial advantages of better insulation and windows to see whether the improvements would be worthwhile; as they will profit from the improvements. Means should be provided for the loans needed at sensible interest rates. For those owners not in a position to fund essential improvements we need to identify the truly needy and give them assistance.

We need to be careful about cavity fill – some suggest this can lead to dampness although that has not been my experience (with chopped glass fibre).

Member

From April 2016, landlords will not be able to refuse ‘reasonable’ requests from tenants, or local authorities acting on behalf of tenants, to improve their property.

From April 2018, the Government will make it unlawful to rent out a house or business premise which has less than an E energy efficiency rating. The Government says this will ensure that at least 682,000 properties will have to be improved.

Member

At first glance this is well worthwhile, but what are the possible complications?

What happens to people in rented homes if major work such as internal insulation of solid brick walls is needed, or is it likely that sufficient improvement can be made with little upheaval?

What if the landlord cannot afford the improvements? I did once rent a flat and the landlord sometimes drove round in a Rolls Royce when collecting the rents from his numerous properties, but I doubt that all landlords are rich.

Member

There will always be complications, but the principle for home insulation is good and we should not be put off by a minority of possible problem cases. What is not clear is how much increase in rent the landlord can expect. The tenant will no doubt still need to balance the energy savings they make against the possible cost increase, as would house owners. No doubt needy tenants will get assistance.

Member

Here is an article on the subject: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/feb/05/landlords-draughty-homes-ban

This article indicates that the UK has a high level of fuel poverty, though it is not stated whether the figures given represent those in rental properties or all housing. The sooner we sort out our crazy energy pricing the better, since many are paying more for energy than they should be.

The legislation applies only to England and Wales, yet parts of Scotland can be very cold.

Member

I am not overly impressed by these new regulations – getting properties up to an E rating is no big deal! Whether landlords will be able to raise the rent is an interesting point. It might depend on the local rental market and the availability of other lets with better energy efficiency for the same rent. Where rental demand is high landlords have been getting away with letting sub-standard properties at excessive rents for years. This does at least put a floor under the energy efficiency standard and properties rated E should be at the bottom end of the rent scale, all other things being equal [which they never are of course]. The further away you get from metropolitan areas there is an increasing likelihood that the supply of lets will exceed demand; it does around where we live and rents have been static or declining for a long time except for brand new properties with high thermal efficiency. Some landlords are not doing very well at all financially and those with a number of low-rated properties might struggle to bring them up to the required minimum standard – they’re in a tight spot and will have to balance the cost of improving the property [and possibly increasing the income] against selling it at a capital loss.

Member

I’m an Energy assessor and I can assure you an “E” rating is nothing to get excited about, well below average.. I would be setting the bar at a “D”. I would also explore legislation that makes it a requirement that a “D” rating is required to sell a property, although I know that could cause problems in selling “fixer upper” type places but there must be some way houses being marketed are categorised to allow for this.
Stamp duty rates and council tax rates could also be linked to EPC rating as further incentives to improve efficiency and in the long term save on energy bills.