“All politics is local”

19th Oct 2020

 

This term is closely associated with the legendary former Speaker of the US House Tip O’Neal. And I can assure you, it is and that policy experts need to address this. Let me give you an example of where this key point is missed.

I listened to the evidence given to the Environmental Audit Committee last week. In an exchange around energy efficiency retrofits the policy advisor quoted a bill of around £45 billion, over the next 15 years, to improve the EPC performance of existing homes. The Chair confirmed that this was for 19 million homes and at £2400 per home that wasn’t a great deal. The advisor, by giving numbers at a macro level missed the point about politics being local, the Chair as a politician did not.

He pointed out that some individual homes faced bills many times greater than the average – indeed this has been confirmed by the Minister. In the local authority where the Committee Chair represents, 46 per cent of homes are off the gas grid. Roughly speaking, a third will be F and G rated, a third E rated, and a third D rated. Very few are at EPC C or better. The Minister confirmed to Parliament that to upgrade an off grid G/F rated home to EPC C would cost an average £18,900 and for an E rated £12,300. These figures are far removed from the UK average of £2400 quoted by the policy advisor.

Why does this matter? Well, the politician is always going to look at their own backyard first. If they see costs eight times higher in their patch than average, then a warning siren goes off in their heads. You could see this happening while watching the evidence being given.

If the cost of a low carbon heating system is then added to the bill, approx. £15,000 according to a study for BEIS, then politicians are going to run for the hills. That’s why a focus on individual homes and bills is essential if political figures are going to take any message seriously. It also serves as a reminder, yet again, that decarbonising the UK is not going to be easy or cheap so any mass roll-out, without disruption and major cost implications, will be the winner. What price a widespread low carbon gas network?

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO

Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive

 

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