What Next for Heat & Buildings Policy?


Over the past 18 months we have seen a huge range of new policies and strategies being published by the Government, including the highly awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy. The UK has passed legislation for achieving net zero by 2050, and yet, despite the influx of policy, there are significant gaps that remain. With one third of our greenhouse gas emissions coming from our building stock, it is imperative that if we are to reach our targets, the Government must address these gaps as a priority.

This report outlines the remaining gaps that the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) has identified and makes recommendations for what the Government should do to address them. The key policy gaps are summarised below.

Address the Able to Pay Sector

A significant gap remains for the 60% of existing homes which are owner-occupied and not fuel poor, as explored in the SEA’s Addressing the Able to Pay Sector Report[i]. With the current Energy Bill Crisis, which is expected to remain with us for the long term, we are concerned that many more households will fall into fuel poverty, and this is something we are determined to help prevent. Energy efficiency is the most effective long-term solution.

Addressing this key stakeholder group is crucial to facilitate the movement away from a heavy reliance on government funding into an independent retrofit market which is self-sufficient and delivers at scale.

Consumer and Supply Chain Knowledge & Skills

Knowledge of alternative heating technologies have been increasing in recent years through increased awareness of climate change. However, there is still a significant lack of consumer and installer knowledge regarding low-carbon technologies compared to traditional fossil fuel heating systems.

Industry skills must incorporate a holistic approach to ensure an efficient installation without unintended consequences. We need a competent workforce capable of designing, building, and retrofitting to deliver energy efficient, net zero carbon, healthy homes and buildings.

There needs to be a commitment to provide independent consumer advice through a ‘one stop shop’, as this will be crucial to helping homeowners through the transition.

The new build housing sector has the Future Homes Hub[ii], but we do not have the same in the retrofit sector to help plug the knowledge and skills gap, helping deliver a whole house, multi-measure, fabric first approach to retrofit.

Technology Agnostic Approach and Innovation

The SEA advocates a fabric first, technology agnostic approach. Therefore, low-carbon technologies, and energy efficiency measures that meet the space and water heating demands of the building in question and lead to the right outcomes, should be supported by government schemes, like the recently launched Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS)[iii].

Government schemes must also support the use of innovation to help the adoption of new and existing, but not widely adopted, technologies. SMEs have a considerable challenge to get their products certified and eligible for government schemes due to the costs and complexities involved. There must be an efficient process to allow businesses the chance to demonstrate the impact of their products and solutions and help aid the transition to Net Zero, whilst ensuring quality.

Long-Term, Joined-up Policy

Long-term, joined-up, consistent, and effective policy and regulation, which exists to drive energy efficiency and sustainable energy in buildings, is the centrepiece of all the gaps in policy. To reach the targets specified by the Government this principle must be followed.

The Government and Industry must work together to form a definitive National Buildings Retrofit Plan, setting out the policies and programmes required to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings, with realistic timescales for implementation, and which places energy efficiency at the heart of the UK’s Net-Zero target.

All buildings can be much more energy efficient; many could even be healthier and energy productive—the net zero transition gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to address this era-defining challenge.  To ensure we get it right we need to measure and monitor energy use, assess the effectiveness of different types of approaches, and examine interventions for all types of end users and customers, deploy appropriately, and build our collective capacity to deliver.

A full set of recommendations can be found within the report, linked below, and the SEA is committed to collaborating with the Government and key industry stakeholders to develop the next phase of policy and help deliver homes and buildings fit for future generations.

[i] SEA (2020) Addressing The Able To Pay Sector – Update On Energy Efficiency Policy

[ii] Future Homes Hub Home

[iii] Boiler Upgrade Scheme – GOV.UK