The sad and under-reported tale of UK energy efficiency gains and neglect. Andrew Warren takes a look at the latest figures on UK domestic energy efficiency improvements and finds deliberately weakened policies have led to plummeting installation rates. The figures are there. In black and white. Revealing that, whereas 10 years ago, the official government forecast had been that energy consumption over the ensuing decade would increase by around 15 per cent, possibly more, those projections could now be seen to have been hopelessly inaccurate. In practice, there had been that 16.2 per cent drop. An error of well over 30 percentage points. Earlier this year researchers from Carbon Brief examined a different but complementary set of statistics regarding year-on-year power generation. They established that power generators had supplied less electricity in the previous year than at any time since 1994. This was achieved “despite rising population numbers and decades of economic growth since the early nineties”. The UK population has grown over 10 per cent over the period, and yet power use kept falling. During the three most recent months for which statistics are available, just 64,404 energy saving measures were installed across the UK. This can be contrasted with the totals of 222,879 and 251,222 measures recorded as installed during the third and fourth quarters of 2013/14. Amongst the main measures reported, 35 per cent were cavity wall insulation, 24 per cent were loft insulation, and 23 per cent were for boiler upgrades. Just seven per cent involved the installation of solid wall insulation – an approach that as recently as 2012 was deemed to be the government’s main priority for improving the energy efficiency of the housing stock. The proportion of households benefiting from such improvements appears to be falling sharply. Whereas in March 2014 just fewer than 80,000 homes were improved, four years later the equivalent figure was down to just 14,700 – a drop of over 80 per cent. Even the modest commitment in the Conservative’s winning 2015 manifesto – promising to install energy efficiency measures in 200,000 homes per year – was nowhere near being fulfilled when the 2017 election was called. At the time, this ambition had been derided as seeking less than half the rate of business activity achieved in 2012. No such ambition now exists. At this rate, it will be well beyond the end of the 21st century before all homes deemed now to be in fuel poverty will be improved. No wonder that the legal commitment, made under the Warm Homes & Energy Conservation Act 2000, to eliminate fuel poverty in England by 2016, had to be quietly repealed by the Conservative-led government.
Business Green 23rd April 2019 read more »