home insulation

Insulating social homes could save £700m, research suggests

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Social housing residents could see their heating bills slashed if their homes were insulated and draught-proofed, the National Housing Federation said.

Bringing social housing buildings to an EPC of C or above would reduce energy bills by 42 per cent to £776 a year, according to the analysis of heating cost figures from the English Housing Survey and EPC data published by the government.

The National Housing Federation said poorly insulated homes are one of the country’s “biggest environmental polluters” and have become a “major culprit” in the cost-of-living crisis.

At the moment, a family in social housing with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of D or below spends on average £1,343 a year on heating, based on the current energy price guarantee. At the same time, three-quarters of social housing residents rely on benefits and a large number of families are at risk of falling into poverty or debt because of increased energy costs.

To address this, the National Housing Federation has called on the government to release the full £3.8bn pledged by the Conservatives by 2030 to decarbonise social housing, of which about £1bn has been committed.

This equates to more than £700m a year in savings for all such residents in England, it said.

Chief executive Kate Henderson said: “Whilst the government’s energy price guarantee is welcome support for now, it is not enough to protect people living in the least energy-efficient homes from astronomic price increases, with some social tenants losing as much as two months’ pay on energy costs and forced to make impossible choices – such as risking getting into debt – to afford basic living costs.

“Looking ahead to April 2023, without well-targeted means-tested support, social housing residents will be facing an even more extraordinary burden.

“Decarbonising social homes is a win-win solution, and the faster it can be done, the greater the benefits for residents and the environment.”

Henderson called on the government to prioritise retrofitting social homes as a “long-term solution to the energy, cost-of-living and climate crises”.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said: “Thanks to government support, the number of homes with an energy efficiency rating of C or above is at 46 per cent and rising, up from just 13 per cent in 2010.

“We are investing over £6.6bn to decarbonise homes and buildings, including Help to Heat schemes such as the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, and are committed to ensuring all homes meet EPC band C by 2035 where cost-effective, practical and affordable.”

Currently, almost a fifth of UK emissions come from buildings, according to the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC). The organisation has accused the government of not investing enough money in tackling energy efficiency in UK homes and buildings. 

In the UK, there are 28.5 million homes and 1.9 million other buildings such as offices, shops and hospitals in the UK, the majority of which are still heated by gas boilers and which would need to be replaced by more sustainable alternatives. 

In June 2020, the government announced its plans to divert over £1bn from existing projects to help low-income households insulate their homes, in order to protect them from the cost of living crisis. 

Earlier this week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy released figures that showed that decarbonising the UK’s stock of public-sector buildings could cost up to £30bn, although it stressed that the estimates were an “indicative” figure, based on current “undiscounted 2022 prices”. 

However, the effort has been considered an important step in the path towards reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. 

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