The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has joined the chorus of political voices calling for the government to accelerate its financial investment in building energy efficiency and heat pumps.
Funding earmarked for the second of half of this decade should be brought forward urgently in light of the on-going energy cost crisis and to get climate change goals back on track, according to the Association which represents hundreds of companies involved in building improvement work.
“The government does seem committed to making both residential and commercial buildings more energy efficient, but its funding timetable needs an urgent review,” said BESA’s technical director Graeme Fox.
“The country is not on track to meet its long-term goals and we are also missing a shorter-term opportunity to improve our energy security by not tackling the root causes of excessive fossil fuel use for heating.”
Fox pointed to a new report from the political think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which urged the government to bring forward the £6bn promised by the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt from 2025 to help building owners cut energy use by 15% compared with current levels. It also said the government would need to subsidise the heat pump sector by a further £3.4bn to achieve its long-stated ambition of growing the market to 600,000 installations a year by 2028.
“The government’s ambition to reach net zero, become energy independent and improve the country’s housing stock is being critically undermined by the lack of public investment in retrofitting homes,” the IPPR report said, adding that the government was already failing to deliver its manifesto commitment to spend £9.2bn on energy efficiency during the current parliament.
A recent government pilot programme proved that heat pumps were suitable for every type of UK property but the biggest barrier for building owners was upfront cost. The IPPR urged the government to increase the level of finance available to homeowners to make heat pumps more attractive.
“The current energy crisis has fully concentrated minds on addressing the poor energy performance of UK buildings, but we are struggling with the legacy of decades of stop-start government policies,” said Fox.
“As well as the obvious financial and climate benefits of speeding up investment in this area, the government should consider the significant job creation opportunities and wider economic benefits it would deliver,” he added.
Conservative MP Chris Skidmore also urged the government to go “further and faster” following his independent review of the country’s progress towards net zero, putting pressure on the Chancellor to loosen the purse strings immediately.
Retrofitting homes to improve energy efficiency and installing a low carbon heating system would also save the average household £500 once the new £3,000 Energy Price Guarantee comes into effect in April, according to the IPPR report.
It added that the government was not on track to deliver its target of all existing homes achieving Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) grade C or higher by 2035 and, in any case, that target should be pulled forward to 2030 for owned homes and 2028 for privately rented properties to improve our chances of achieving climate change targets.
“It is not just the cost of heat pump installation that deters homeowners, but the complexity of the grant application process,” said Fox. “Financial support needs to be more generous, more ambitious, and simpler to access.
“This would help the government address three of its biggest challenges simultaneously: The cost of living, climate change and energy security.”