Government’s energy efficiency schemes are ‘struggling’ to meet targets, councils warn

The slow rates at which UK homes are being insulated is leaving fuel poverty targets in jeopardy, costing billions and contributing to climate change, councils have warned.

Local authorities have raised concerns over the sluggish pace of home insulation schemes, and the risk it poses to many people facing fuel poverty. 

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 300 councils in England and Wales, said the government’s flagship energy efficiency scheme supported 60,000 homes in 2022, down from almost half a million homes in 2013.

The failure to match installation levels of 2013 in the following years had cost households £2bn in lost lifetime bill savings, the councils stated. 

The organisation’s analysis also found that, if current rates continue, it would take 50 years to deliver loft insulations to all fuel-poor homes needing them, and almost 60 years to deliver wall insulation improvements. 

As a result, 2.4 million fuel-poor homes would be left without help from the scheme by 2030, the target date for ending fuel poverty.

In order to get hold of the problem, the councils are calling for a new local approach, that includes “accelerated action” to retrofit all social and fuel-poor homes, and allows councils to locally target the projects that would make the most impact. 

“Retrofitting more homes is a practical, sustainable and economically responsible solution to raise housing standards and cut bills,” said LGA environment spokeswoman Linda Taylor. “National climate action is essential. But the complexity of supporting retrofitting in our 51 cities, 935 towns and 6,000 villages cannot be managed from a Whitehall desk, and the national schemes are struggling.

“It is now time to shift to a locally-led approach, which would mean councils can target the homes that need the support most, while working with local businesses to build skills and growth.”

The LGA said new boilers accounted for one in four measures – more than all loft and cavity wall insulation measures combined – which was not sustainable in the long term.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesman said: “This is an utterly misleading comparison that ignores the many home insulation schemes delivering now that were not in place in 2013, such as the Home Upgrade Grant and the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund.

“The proportion of homes in England with an Energy Performance Certificate rating of C or above has increased from 14 per cent in 2010 to 47 per cent in 2022.

“Our Great British Insulation Scheme is set to upgrade around 300,000 of the country’s least energy-efficient homes, we’ve committed to invest £6.6bn in energy efficiency upgrades this Parliament, and a further £6bn to 2028.”

In February, the Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee  concluded that the government’s £450m ‘Boiler Upgrade Scheme’ is failing to deliver on its objectives, following a disappointingly low take-up of grants.

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