Response to CCC report on the UK’s unfit homes

Today’s report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) finds that today’s homes are unfit for the challenges of the 21st century. It could not be clearer:

  • We cannot meet our climate objectives without a major improvement in UK housing.
  • We will not meet our targets for emissions reduction without near complete decarbonisation of the housing stock.
  • The housing stock is not well-adapted for the current or future climate.
  • Current policies are not delivering the required changes.

The Committee identifies five priorities for action. They are spot on.

We need to close the performance gap; invest in skills (not least by providing stability in the sector); retrofit homes for both efficiency and resilience, and embed those principles in tight specifications for new homes; and provide preferential finance for homes that both mitigate and are resilient to climate change.

Overcoming barriers in the market

Our data analytics tool and advisory services are already helping social and private landlords of close to a million homes develop cost-effective retrofit strategies, as MEES and the Clean Growth Strategy have made the direction of travel clear.

But the owner-occupier market continues to be a tough one to crack. Our current BEIS-funded work in this sector seeks to address a number of these barriers, and indeed many more. It was developed in response to the list of barriers set out in the Government’s own report on ‘Building a market for Energy Efficiency’.

On the demand-side, with partners, we are developing

  • an innovative offer, backed up by targeted marketing
  • quality assurance through Retrofit Coordinators and partnerships with local authorities
  • independent advice on appropriate measures, potential costs and benefits
  • finance offers
  • ways to reduce the hassle factor, again through the Retrofit Coordinator, but also through packaging of measures and potentially other means
  • identification and framing of benefits beyond energy savings, such as appearance, comfort and developing social norms
  • marketing tailored to property types, to work with not against the appearance of a building
  • an incentive to act now

On the supply side, the project aims to provide

  • high quality work for trusted installers
  • a balanced view on cost, carbon and comfort benefits tailored to the consumer segment, leaving installers to do what they do best – install
  • assurance to finance partners on the quality of installations
  • offers that work with the current availability of skills, whilst identifying gaps in skills, and reducing them through training
  • a test of the potential for savings through aggregated offers
  • research into the impact on property value

Government intervention is required

We are very grateful to BEIS for testing the potential market for SME installers in this way. The breadth of the project’s scope is vital to allow for testing the impact of different elements through Randomised Control Trials.

Some elements will work, some won’t, but there remains a missing element: a strong signal from across Government that this matters.

Read those bullets at the top again. Making housing fit for the 21st century is not a nice-to-have, not gold-plating, and is most certainly time-sensitive. The market has the potential to make the transition easier, but there’s little traction whilst Government cuts or cancels related decarbonisation policies. We need a return of a zero carbon homes standard, less reliance on ‘smart’ alone, recognition of the societal value of small-scale renewable energy, and HM Treasury needs to recognise that homes are central to the nation’s infrastructure.

Whilst we get on with testing all levers that are within our reach to overcome market barriers, it is also up to the Government to do all that is within their power. All levers are needed.