Action needed to make homes greener

Concerted action to make the UK's existing housing stock greener and more energy efficient could create a building market worth up to £6.5bn a year.

A study by Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute said deep cuts in the carbon dioxide emissions of the housing stock was possible, but current policies would not deliver them.

With 27 per cent of CO2 output in the UK coming from energy use in homes, the report for the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said action was needed if the country was to meet targets of as much as 80 per cent cuts in emissions by 2050. But while action is being taken on new homes to make them zero-carbon, similar policies are needed for existing housing stock.

The report said some £23bn was spent a year on repairs, maintenance and improvements to existing homes, much of which was "a missed opportunity in terms of low-carbon refurbishment".

If the government committed to upgrading homes, with policies, skills programmes and financial incentives to "green" the housing stock, it could provide a market for building firms, product manufacturers and suppliers of £3.5bn to £6.5bn a year.

The report said a clear signal from the government was needed to give manufacturers and suppliers the confidence to invest in the development of the necessary supply chains for green refurbishment.

Ministers should outline timescales and policies for mandatory standards on refurbishment, and look at using council tax rebates to promote energy efficient homes.

The government should also introduce feed-in tariffs, which pay people for energy they generate from microrenewables such as wind turbines or solar panels, to boost their installation, the study said.

It also called for VAT to be reduced to 5 per cent for renovations and repairs on domestic properties.

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