The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is calling for a national mobilisation, or ‘war effort’, on energy efficiency to reduce household energy bills, cut climate-changing emissions and reduce reliance on fossil fuel imports.
As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK – which is dependent on fossil fuels for 78% of its energy needs – has been exposed to the biggest global fossil fuel price shock since the 1970s.
While the government’s British Energy Security Strategy sets out ambitions for low-carbon electricity generation, there remain significant gaps.
The Government’s Energy Price Guarantee has saved four million households from spending 10% of their income on energy this January, but ministers missed a window of opportunity to accelerate energy efficiency installations in the warmer months of 2022.
The Chancellor’s recent announcements of an Energy Efficiency Taskforce and further energy efficiency investment from 2025 is welcome, but those in fuel poverty cannot afford three winters of delay.
In England alone, over 13 million (or 59%) of homes are below EPC rated C. The number of UK energy efficiency installations peaked in 2012 at 2.3 million, yet in 2021, fewer than 100,000 upgrades were installed.
The Committee is calling for at least one million energy efficiency installations a year by 2025, with an ambitious target of 2.5 million properties a year by the end of the decade.
Such an effort would require funding, including investment in people to deliver this step change.
The new Energy Efficiency Taskforce should be directed to estimate the levels of funding and workforce skills which will be needed.
A proportion of the Energy Profits Levy should be allocated immediately to help fund energy efficiency improvements.
‘Look back at 2022 and the true cost of our fossil fuel dependence will stare you right in the face. We have seen record-breaking floods, heatwaves and droughts bring deaths and devastation all over the world, while millions of UK households were plunged into hardship by energy prices inflated by Putin’s war in Ukraine.
‘It should be blindingly obvious that any hope we have of a better future rests on quitting fossil fuels for good, yet the UK government doesn’t seem to have learnt the lesson. They’re still planning to unleash a drilling frenzy in the North Sea while doing little to fix our draughty, gas-dependent homes.
‘Ministers should listen to this cross-party group of MPs, stump up at least money for home insulation promised in the 2019 manifesto and kick off a nationwide efficiency programme across the country.
‘This isn’t just a quick way to tackle our fossil fuel dependence – it will also lower energy bills and cut planet-heating emissions. What is the government waiting for?’
Greenpeace UK’s policy director
From offshore wind to solar energy, the proportion of the UK’s energy mix from renewables has been increasing substantially in recent years.
The Committee welcomed the stretching targets the government has set in its British Energy Security Strategy for low-carbon energy technologies like offshore wind and solar, but it is calling for greater focus on the potential of onshore wind to be rolled out rapidly in the short term, and tidal energy to contribute to the UK’s energy security baseload in the long term.
When the government publishes its updated Net Zero Strategy in spring, ambitious targets for onshore wind and tidal energy would be vital to send the right demand signals to industry.
Developers should also be required to fit solar photovoltaics (PV) on homes to help achieve the government’s ambition of 70GW of solar generating capacity by 2035.