Priorities for increasing energy security in the UK – addressing key challenges, industry role and obligations, energy efficiency, mitigating impact on business and consumers, and the future of net-zero policy ambitions

Categories: Blog | Energy Efficiency

Our Chief Executive, Jade Lewis, recently spoke at the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum policy conference to discuss the priorities for UK energy security.

Read Jade’s speech:

Priorities for increasing energy security

On the 7th of April this year, the Government published its Energy Security Strategy, which is very welcomed, but does not place anywhere near enough emphasis on energy efficiency, which we believe is the most effective way to provide long-term security against future energy bill rises. Reducing the UK’s demand for energy has to be the primary aim.

Energy efficiency also provides additional benefits like supporting the UK’s transition to Net-Zero, stimulating investment in industry and improving people’s comfort and wellbeing.

Secondly, we need to move the UK’s reliance on imported fossil fuels onto more sustainable, locally produced sources of energy. This means changing the heating systems within our buildings, as well as taking steps to address energy generation.

It is important that, when people make the switch to low-carbon technologies, they are being rewarded for using cleaner heat, not penalised with higher bills. We are asking the Government to accelerate action on rebalancing the levy costs between electricity and gas.

National Energy Action estimates that the number of UK households in fuel poverty following the April price cap rise, has increased by 2 million, to 6.5 million in just over six months. This means that almost a quarter of all UK households are in fuel poverty. Urgent action is needed.

Industry role and obligations

The industry needs to develop the solutions for improving the fabric of buildings and installing low carbon heating systems at scale. We need to take a more holistic, multi-measure approach to designing, building and retrofitting homes and buildings.

Many of the technologies and products that we need already exist – including insulation, energy efficient glazing, draught proofing, heat pumps, PV, solar thermal, biomass, battery storage, etc. Now we need to ramp up capacity to be able to deploy the solutions at scale.

So what is stopping us?

Addressing the key challenges

Firstly, we need the knowledge and skills in the industry to make our homes more energy efficient. We need more installers of fabric measures, with an understanding of the building as a whole and certified to PAS 2030/35 standards so that we minimise the unintended consequences of the past.

It is important that we are reskilling heating engineers in low-carbon heating technologies and bringing in new recruits. They also need to be aware of the fabric efficiency requirements for a particular home so that technologies, like heat pumps, can operate effectively. 

The new build housing sector has the Future Homes Hub to aid the knowledge of those who work in this industry, we also need a Retrofit Hub.

The energy bill crisis is clearly creating increased demand. We are certainly seeing large numbers of people asking what they can do to reduce their energy bills. But knowledge on what to do is low and finding trusted advice and support is difficult.

High-quality, independent, support and advice is crucial. We need a ‘one stop shop’.

Focusing on carbon alone without paying due care and attention to other factors has led to unintended consequences. News of poor-quality installations negatively impacts on the whole sector. Delivering high quality and performance will be vital in building consumer trust.

Providing a guaranteed energy performance for the long term will help reduced energy demand, providing long-term protection from rising energy bills, and helping address fuel poverty.

Changes to building regulations should mean that new build homes and buildings have good fabric efficiency and low carbon heating systems, however these must be enforced to ensure builders are actually building to the required standards. This will prevent us having to spend time and money on retrofitting them later.

New innovative solutions to decarbonising buildings are being developed all the time. However, the multiple processes and standards in place, aren’t joined up and act as a barrier to market for innovative products.

The future of net-zero policy ambitions

So what about the future for Net-Zero?

Our recently published report makes recommendations to government for addressing the gaps in policy around heat and buildings to help the industry deliver the right solutions.

In particular, there is a need for long-term, joined up policy.

The Government must work collaboratively with industry in the development of a clear roadmap for heat and buildings through to the 2050 target, that also includes actions for eradicating fuel poverty.

We are advocating for a National Retrofit Strategy. This would provide the industry with the certainty of demand it requires to ramp up and help deliver the solutions and scale required to retrofit the millions of homes in fuel poverty in a more cost-effective way.  

The estimated cost of leaving people in poor housing is in the region of 18 billion pounds per year. We have a real opportunity to create buildings that promote positive health and wellbeing, while addressing net zero.

The SEA has endorsed an ‘ECO+ Scheme’, to build upon the success of the current Energy Company Obligation scheme, bringing its benefits to a wider group of people. It must be an ambitious, long-term scheme that provides the confidence and certainty that is necessary to create a sustainable market for energy efficiency measures.

We are pleased that the Government has announced £1 billion per year of additional support over the next three years and we are working with them on the development of policy to make ECO+ a reality.          

So overall energy efficiency is the best approach for providing energy security, tackling fuel poverty and delivering Net-Zero.