Energy efficiency improvements restricted to wealthy homeowners, Unison says
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The government is not doing enough to improve home energy efficiency, putting greener homes beyond the reach of all but the wealthy, Unison has said in a new report.
The union said that without a major rethink on financial help and incentives, the UK faces “painfully slow” progress on green homes and won’t meet its 2050 net-zero target.
The report found that short-term policies and a complex array of “ever-changing support packages” have left millions of households with insufficient help to meet soaring energy bills.
In July 2020, the government announced a £3bn package for British homeowners to make their houses more energy efficient and improve insulation efforts. The scheme offered households up to £10,000 to insulate their property, but it badly underperformed.
The Public Accounts Committee called it a “slam dunk fail” after it failed to draw sufficient applicants and was closed after less than a year.
Nevertheless, IPPR researchers said last year that retrofitting England’s homes with good insulation and heat pumps could create millions of jobs and cut household bills.
The Unison report found that most incentives to encourage a switch to greener energy involve considerable upfront costs, meaning that it is wealthier households that are most likely to benefit.
In a survey of public sector workers who own their own homes, conducted for the report, almost four-fifths (79 per cent) said they were concerned about climate change and global warming.
More than seven in ten (74 per cent) said they were keen to switch to cleaner energy, but felt they were not being offered enough government support to do so.
For many people, the significant costs of switching to greener alternatives to heat their homes are unaffordable. More than three quarters (77 per cent) said that even with up to £5,000 available from government grants to upgrade to a modern air-source heat pump, they would be unable to afford the extra £3,000-5,000 they’d need to finance the remainder themselves.
Just 4 per cent of those polled thought government schemes aimed at encouraging the switch to clean energy systems were affordable and aimed at them.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The UK is in the last-chance saloon. Ministers must get to grips with this problem now, not in years to come when it’s too late. Those households who can least afford to switch to cleaner energy are the ones needing help the most with their bills.
“What’s needed is a fair system that works for everyone, not just those with the most money. Without a drastic change in tack from government, a greener future is just a distant dream.”
A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “The government’s record on energy efficiency speaks for itself – we’ve invested £6.6bn in improving energy efficiency, with around 2.5 million homes upgraded and 47 per cent of homes now with a rating of C or above.
“Earlier this year, we announced £1.8bn to make homes and public buildings more energy efficient, with £1.4bn of this funding supporting improvements for social housing, low-income households and off-grid homes.
“This comes on top of a further £6bn we’ve committed for energy efficiency in the next five years and we’re pleased to see some suppliers are already extending their insulation support to more customers.”
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