The government has pledged to spend around £6.6 billion over the lifetime of this parliament on clean heat and energy efficiency in our homes. The rationale for making homes more energy efficient is to ensure that people can enjoy warmer and healthier homes in addition to reducing carbon emissions, and our reliance on fossil fuels.
To this effect, the government has set a target in its energy efficiency strategy to reduce energy demand from buildings and industries by 15% up to 2023. In order to achieve this target, grants and training schemes have been introduced to upskill installers and improve energy efficiency, among a few initiatives.
For instance, in June 2023 the government made grants available to train 10,000 installers in low-carbon heat pumps. Also, from July 2023, accredited training providers, such as colleges and private providers across England were allowed to bid for funding to train individuals to retrofit homes with energy-saving measures such as loft insulation and draft-proofing measures.
Here are some other initiatives that have been put in place to improve energy efficiency in our properties which can benefit homeowners as well as the environment.
The government has set a plan to phase out the sale of new gas boilers by 2035 and replace them with energy-efficient boilers, or an alternative heating system like heating pumps which use air and very little electricity. This is a new technology which is currently being developed. Another effective alternative is a hydrogen boiler which works in a similar way. Last year the government launched a £450 million Boiler Upgrade Scheme to reduce the cost of heat pumps compared to gas boilers to make steps towards their 2035 goal.
Green mortgages are a new and attractive mortgage option, especially with mortgage rates rising and people wanting to get as many benefits out of their mortgage deals as possible. Many lenders are starting to introduce these mortgages as they want to be perceived as doing good for the environment by working with the government to support their net zero emissions target in the build-back green plan.
The advantage of green mortgages is that the lender will supposedly give you a better interest rate compared with standard mortgages and extra perks like cash back. They were set up to encourage businesses and homeowners to support energy efficiency measures to reduce carbon footprints.
The government has now also introduced a pilot that could see mortgages cut for those homeowners who make their homes more energy-efficient by helping to drive down energy use and reduce bills by fitting items such as loft insulation, solar panels, double glazing and heat pumps. For further information on green mortgages, we have another article on this topic.
EPCs were brought in by the government in 2007 to show how energy-efficient homes were when renting or buying. Surveys are carried out by accredited domestic energy assessors, who check things like windows, doors, floors, walls, lighting, and heating systems for possible drafts or heat escapes. Once completed, the EPC report is valid for 10 years.
Subsequent changes in the law in 2018 required all rented properties in England to reach a certain minimum standard of energy efficiency with a potential fine of up to £5000 for non-compliance. The government has recently announced that they intend to increase the minimum EPC rating requirement from “E” to “C”. This will apply to all newly let rentals from 2025, and to existing rental agreements from 2028, with fines increasing up to £30,000 for failing to make the necessary improvements.
However, this plan has now been scrapped by the government. The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has been arguing for some time that if the government wishes to ask landlords to fund improvements on their homes regardless of their property value or location to gain a C grade rating, there need to be tax breaks in place to support this.
As a result, the government has said that the amount of homes with an Energy Efficiency Rating of C or above has risen from 13% in 2010 to the current 46%. We do not know whether plans will change and what the requirements will be in future.
Help to Heat Scheme
The “Help to Heat Scheme,” which has now been scrapped was put in place to make sure that homes are made warmer and cheaper to heat. Support was offered to homeowners to improve sustainable warmth and energy efficiency.
One of the aims of this scheme was to assist in home insulation. Another benefit of this scheme, which was introduced in February 2023, was to gain free advice on whether you may be eligible for a number of secondary measures including smart heating controls on radiators, free LED lightbulbs, radiator reflectors, and draft-proofing strips. The reason this scheme was initiated was to not only help the environment, but also support people in the cost-of-living crisis. There is no mention of what will happen now that the scheme has been stopped, but we will provide updates on the latest announcements.
A study done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that those working from home cut emissions by 54% compared with those working in an office. Whilst this statistic relates to U.S. workers, it’s a wonder whether the UK government is considering this interesting point. In fact, the UK has recently introduced a new Flexible Working Bill to make it easier for employees to request flexible working arrangements including hybrid patterns and working from home. This has come about as a result of the global shift towards flexible working, work-life balance, and productivity in the workplace, and perhaps fits nicely with the net zero carbon emissions target too.
There are a number of initiatives that the government is putting in place to improve the energy efficiency of UK homes, not just those mentioned here. All of these schemes should help to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by making our homes more energy-efficient and reducing the cost of our energy bills.
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