Green energy measures save households £1,000 a year – analysis | Energy
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Energy efficiency measures have already saved an average UK household around £1,000 a year on their energy bills, and further insulation and home improvements could halve future invoices, according to an analysis.
But future savings are unlikely to be realized unless the government quickly focuses on insulation, as savings to date have largely come from efficiency improvements in electrical appliances and boilers, which will not be repeated.
The energy price cap is set to rise to £2,000 for a typical household in April, due to the gas crisis, from around £1,300 today. But average household energy bills would be £3,000 a year if it weren’t for a series of regulatory measures that have reduced energy consumption over the past two decades, according to the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) , an organization of analysts.
Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at RAP, said the analysis showed the government’s failures over the past decade to take action that would have averted much of the current energy price crisis. “If the government had acted, we could have had a properly funded program that would have reduced greenhouse gases and energy bills,” he said.
Electrical appliances such as light bulbs, refrigerators and washing machines now consume much less energy than 20 years ago, thanks to EU directives. A 2005 UK government regulation mandating the use of condensing boilers has significantly reduced average gas consumption.
Overall energy consumption has fallen by 16% since 2000 despite a 15% increase in the number of houses, the average house being 10% larger and the increase in the number of household appliances, the RAP said.
Insulation, double glazing and similar home renovations have also reduced energy consumption somewhat, according to Rosenow, but by far less than would have been possible as the UK has lagged behind on such improvements. Isolation rates have plummeted over the past decade after successive government programs were cut and not replaced.
At least 14 million households have gone without insulation due to the abandonment of the Green Deal scheme, which was set up in 2013 and abandoned in 2015, with only around 15,000 homes renovated. Another 47,500 were upgraded in the most recent successor program, the Green Homes Grant, instead of the promised 600,000, when the program was scrapped after just six months.
The “stop-start” nature of government insulation efforts has also stifled growth in the insulation industry, which requires skilled workers and an extensive network of suppliers, Rosenow added. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the industry over the past decade.
The RAP analysis suggested that it would be a mistake to reduce the obligation of the energy company (ECO), which the government is considering. The £1billion-a-year scheme, the cost of which comes on top of energy bills, channels funding towards insulating people on low incomes. Reducing the ECO “would slow down the much-needed transformation of our building stock and expose more people to rising energy prices in the future,” according to RAP.
The RAP’s findings are consistent with separate Carbon Brief estimates that the reduction in insulation schemes over the past 10 years has added around £1billion a year to UK energy bills.
Rosenow said the failure to maintain consistent action on insulation was a huge missed opportunity, but that action could still reduce bills in years to come. Some analysts predict high gas prices for at least the next two years as the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and economic shocks.
“Gas boilers are now about as efficient as they can get. The big area for improvement is insulation,” Rosenow said. “You can’t get to net zero without insulation. It’s impossible, it would be far too expensive and impractical.
Some Tory MPs and right-wing commentators have argued that the net zero target should be reconsidered in light of the energy crisis and called for more oil and gas exploration. However, analysts have shown that renewable energy has lowered the cost of electricity generation and that overreliance on gas is the main cause of high prices.
The “green” conservatives have also stepped up their defense of net zero targets in recent days. Alok Sharma, chair of the Cop26 climate summit, in a speech to the Chatham House think tank, said: “Clean is competitive, and the global race to deliver the technologies and solutions a net zero world needs is launched. The train is leaving the station and countries and companies that want to stay competitive must take the plunge now.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, told think tank Bright Blue: ‘People skeptical of net zero fear it will drive up the cost of energy bills… [But] it’s about taking the lead, jobs and exports. We can steal a march on the world by learning to decarbonise. For decarbonization, we want to be the pilots, not the passengers. »
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