Aspiration and Ambition for Energy Efficiency
Sarah Kostense-Winterton’s article “Aspiration and Ambition for Energy Efficiency” was first printed in Issue 12 of Insulate Magazine. Read this article and the full magazine online here.
“Ambitious, broad and binding”, Energy Minister shows renewed aspiration and ambition for energy efficiency
On Thursday 12 October, The Guardian headline read “UK climate change masterplan – the grownups have finally won”. This announced the first of two major wins for MIMA, for the EEIG and for the industry with a renewed aspiration and ambition from Energy Minister, Claire Perry in the very long-awaited Clean Growth Strategy. The announcement that saw MIMA and the EEIG’s aspirational target of bringing homes up to EPC C by 2035 being publicly supported by the Energy Minister and the Government.
Aspirational Target Support
Claire Perry told her colleagues in Parliament that the measures in the Clean Growth Strategy “not only continue our work in cutting emissions, but we can also cut consumer bills, drive economic growth, create high-value jobs right across the UK and improve our quality of life. It is a win-win opportunity: it is ours for the taking”.
Mirroring the messages of the EEIG, it could have almost been lifted from the EEIG commissioned Frontier Economics report, “Affordable Warmth, Clean Growth”. Even her predecessor, Nick Hurd acknowledged the that strategy was much better than when he left his position as minister.
This was swiftly followed by a second win from the National Infrastructure Commission, recognising buildings energy efficiency as an infrastructure priority saying “Two priorities for achieving low-cost, low carbon are clear. The first is to improve energy efficiency. The UK has old and leaky buildings, which means households and firms use far more heat than should be required, pushing up consumer bills and increasing the costs of moving towards low carbon heating in the longer term. The Commission will consider how an ambitious programme of energy efficiency improvements could rectify this.“
All to Play For
However despite Perry’s positive tone and ambition, we do hear the many voices of caution, the voices that say it is only aspirational, it doesn’t mean the government will do it. The devil’s in the detail or there’s a lack of detail. So what does all this mean for us? Is the Government going to deliver? What should we be doing? Where do we go from here?
What it does mean is that we have ALL to play for, we have to deliver and we must and we can make this change happen. The opportunity is clear with one-third of UK carbon emissions coming from buildings and with 19 million homes in the UK still with needlessly poor levels of energy performance – below an EPC C rating. Up to a quarter of the energy consumed in homes could be saved cost-effectively, with the technical potential for energy use in homes to be cut in half.
In a nutshell, this is the start of the next phase and where the hard work really begins. We have been told that the EEIG was instrumental in bringing about this renewed ambition but that we need to continue to work together as an alliance and even broaden our coalition. This is our starting position and the EEIG’s strategy and actions over the next year will be vital to success.
We already have a healthy head start, where the Minister has the aspiration and ambition, we have the vision and the practical steps on how to implement – through the EEIG commissioned Frontier Economics report, “Affordable Warmth, Clean Growth”. In this report, we clearly set out an ambitious yet practical action plan for the Government to make all homes energy efficient within 20 years. Perry quite rightly said that there is not one silver bullet and everyone has to play their part.
So as part of the EEIG alliance, we have worked hard with government to reach this stage and they are listening and engaged, but now we must move forward to focus on how to deliver and respond to the raft of government’s calls for evidence. To ensure we tick the government’s objective boxes – evidence how we bring the benefits to consumers, to business; how we can deliver innovation; be world-leading; how we can boost the UK economy and create jobs but most of all that everyone across the UK has the best chance of a warm and comfortable home with lower bills.
Achieving this goal will require the adoption of world-leading quality standards for retrofitting and constructing homes, area-based schemes led by local authorities, additional funding sources that won’t raise energy bills and financial incentives to encourage households to take up energy-saving measures. A mix of measures, including pilots, demonstrators, research and detailed short to medium to longer term deliverables. There’s simply no silver bullet.
Strategy to Deliver
The EEIG will not be stopping there – we will be grasping this opportunity with both hands, focusing on a strategy and activity plan for the year ahead to deliver for government and EEIG members, new and existing. We have started this journey with a successful media launch of our report with coverage in The Guardian, The Sun, BBC News, Carbon Brief and Business Green and others. This was only topped by our recent Parliamentary launch event with a written endorsement from Minister, Claire Perry and with support from a great many MPs, including our sponsor, Eddisbury MP, Antoinette Sandbach and speaker contributions from Lord Deben, former Climate Change Committee Chief Executive and Frontier Economics Director, Matthew Bell and CBI’s Neil Carberry.
We simply cannot ignore that energy efficiency formed a substantial focus in the Clean Growth Strategy, that it is firmly back on the political agenda. The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department (BEIS) clearly has more scope for ambition and more power to influence their colleagues across Whitehall. We have a government that needs to urgently deliver carbon reductions to deliver its carbon budgets. A government perceived to be weak on climate change and that needs to secure more and younger voters (with climate change second in importance only to health according to Conservative think tank, Bright Blue’s polling). Let’s also not forget that more energy-efficient homes will do so much more to cut energy costs in the long-run than a cap on energy prices will.
Focus on the Achievement
So we have a big job ahead, no doubt about it. More ups and downs, a lot to do and a lot to achieve. We don’t have any guarantees, but government’s do deliver when people show they want change and come together with one voice. We need to stay focused, even to the point of obsession and we need to spread the word – one voice, one vision and make energy efficiency the new craze.
We believe the EEIG and its members can play a crucial part in any future success and work closely with government to deliver a comprehensive Buildings Energy Infrastructure Programme. We can and will make this happen.
p.s. Happy First Birthday to Insulate magazine!
Sarah Kostense-Winterton is Executive Director of MIMA, the Mineral Wool Insulation Manufacturers Association and provides the secretariat to the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group (EEIG).
The EEIG is a collaboration of over 25 organisations including leading industry and trade bodies and consumer groups, think tanks, environmental NGOs and major engineering, energy, construction and insulation businesses.
The EEIG’s objective is to bring all UK homes up to a decent standard of energy efficiency (EPC C by 2035), warmth and comfort without increasing energy bills through designating the energy efficiency of our buildings as a government infrastructure investment priority.
This is supported by the EEIG-commissioned Frontier Economics report “Affordable Warmth, Clean Growth” setting out what a building energy infrastructure programme would look like in practice and providing a practical and cost-effective blueprint for UK government policy-making on energy in buildings.
For further details on the EEIG see www.theeeig.co.uk or if you would like to join, please contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org