Budget lacks ambition needed to reach fast approaching targets
22nd Nov 2017
The Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) welcomes today’s budget and some of the policies outlined. Nevertheless, we are concerned by the lack of focus on energy within the Autumn Budget - with fast approaching carbon budgets, rising levels of fuel poverty, and increasing concerns about the sustainability of the UK’s energy mix, it is worrying that the energy trilemma, and subsequent policy concerns, have been largely neglected in what should be an all-encompassing and ambitious document.
We are pleased to see a commitment to housebuilding, given the number of people living in unsatisfactory housing, and the issues associated with energy efficiency and the UK’s housing stock. However, the target of 300,000 new homes built by the mid-2020s strikes us as a case of too little too late, it offers no real comfort to those wanting to buy a house today, who can’t due to lack of supply. With an estimated 1.2 million people on housing waiting lists, and an additional 6 million in insecure tenures, the timescale for this should be far more immediate. This renders stamp duty cuts meaningless for those without a house to buy.
The focus must now be on ensuring they are built to the right carbon standards, connected to the gas grid, and have efficient domestic heating systems in the form of condensing boilers.
Reiterating our key asks expressed prior to the budget, a clear plan must be put in place to replace the estimated 9 million inefficient boilers in UK households which are not only highly inefficient and costly to the consumer, but also environmentally damaging, given that they emit higher levels of C02 than modern condensing boilers.
Illogically, the government introduced a cap on boiler replacements under the ECO2t scheme, resulting in an 83% decline in the number of new boilers installed under the scheme, and meaning that there are currently no mechanisms in place to incentivise and facilitate boiler replacements, an entity intrinsic to eradicating fuel poverty and creating energy efficient homes.
Despite the evidence base to demonstrate that without an efficient boiler, households remain low in energy efficiency (irrespective of insulation) and are far more susceptible to fuel poverty, a boiler scrappage scheme or other form of investment or incentive has not been outlined in the budget, much to the industry and fuel poverty charities’ frustration.
In addition, with the NHS spending over £1 billion every year on treating preventable cold related illness, and cold homes killing more than four times as many people as road and rail accidents, it is deeply concerning that no investment appears to be made – either through schemes to fund boiler replacements/boilers on prescriptions, gas grid connections or an emergency fund put in place to reduce the number of people living in miserably cold homes There are many ways in which the issue can be tackled, but inactive is not a solution.
With the budget, the government had the opportunity to show clear ambition and drive with regards to investing in measures to tackling issues pertaining to decarbonisation, air quality and fuel poverty; in this, it has under delivered. As days start to get colder, and figures show more people are living in fuel poverty or struggling to pay bills, it is paramount that investment and strategies are put in place.
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