UK must insulate homes or face a worse energy crisis in 2023, experts say

Britain will be plunged into an even worse energy crisis a year from now without an immediate plan to improve leaky homes and drastically reduce gas demand, ministers have warned.

The UK ranks among the worst in Europe for the energy efficiency of its homes, according to new research highlighting an urgent need to reduce the amount of heat wasted. Experts warn that while Liz Truss has bought the Government time with her £100billion-plus package to cap energy bills, similarly expensive and unsustainable projects will be needed unless substantial plans are forthcoming. be introduced to improve houses and reduce demand.

Truss’s energy package, a measure likely to define his premiership, is already under pressure for lack of detail. There are further fears that additional aid will need to be targeted at the poorest households, while the relatively short-term aid given to businesses will also be increased by business groups in the coming weeks.

While Truss has pointed to fracking and the expansion of North Sea fossil fuels as a way to boost energy supplies, she has previously been warned that it won’t bring prices down – while hurting the economy. Britain’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis. Instead, she is urged to copy successful policies in Germany and elsewhere to improve the energy efficiency of UK homes to reduce demand.

Research from the Institute for Government (IfG) found that the UK scored lower than countries in Europe with a range of climates in terms of the energy efficiency of its homes. Citing analysis from a 2020 study, he found that a UK home with an indoor temperature of 20C and an outdoor temperature of 0C lost an average of 3C after five hours, or up to three times more than homes in European countries like Germany.

The analysis concludes that UK households and businesses “are likely to still face high energy bills in the winter of 2023 – most likely beyond”. He adds: “If the government focuses only on short-term financial support and long-term measures unlikely to have a major impact, it will find itself in an even more difficult position in a year’s time.”

The UK is particularly vulnerable to gas price spikes. More than four-fifths of UK homes are currently still heated by gas boilers, which is much higher than in most countries. The UK building stock is also the oldest and least energy efficient in Europe. Over 52% of houses in England were built before 1965 and nearly 20% were built before 1919.

The IfG analysis warns that energy prices are now set to rise further and stay higher for longer than forecast at the start of the crisis, with prices likely to remain up to four times higher than historical rates until in 2025. That means another huge bailout could be needed unless Truss acts on gas demand reduction.

Experts estimate that a serious energy efficiency program could have a real impact within a year. The institute cited Germany as a success story, where grants, low-interest loans, tax refunds and free expert advice were all used, resulting in high take-up rates students.

A series of roofs.
The British housing stock is one of the oldest in Europe. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA

“Energy efficiency is a giant hole in Liz Truss’ energy plan,” said Tom Sasse, associate director at the IfG. “Bills have skyrocketed – and show little sign of coming down – but the government has no plan to tackle the fact that we have the most drafty homes in Europe.

“Borrowing huge sums to freeze energy bills only makes sense if we also have a demand reduction plan. Announcing a national mission to boost energy efficiency – learning from successes abroad – could make a real difference in reducing future pain for households and businesses.

The costs of Truss’ plan will be unveiled this month in a budget statement to be made by the new chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng. The Prime Minister has ruled out using a windfall supplier levy to fund the scheme, which Labor has demanded. However, there are already calls for the declaration to support additional aid for the poorest households, which face additional pressures from inflation.

The Center for Social Justice, a think tank with close ties to senior Tories including former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, is calling for an increase in Universal Credit to help the group. “Frankly, it’s an injustice not to use the welfare system the way we can to help people,” said Joe Shalam, its policy director. “Universal Credit is the way to do that. We’ve seen it deliver during the pandemic. It is one of the most advanced social security systems in the world.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has calculated that, including all government schemes, there remains a gap of around £800 that low-income families will have to fill this winter. This puts them at risk of poverty or at the mercy of high interest loans.

UK must insulate homes or face a worse energy crisis in 2023, experts say

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