The UK government has unveiled its eagerly awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy, setting out how the country plans to decarbonise its homes and buildings.
£3.9bn has been pledged for the strategy, including an £800m Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to help social landlords improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
Also announced was a £950m Home Upgrade Grant scheme, to be used by councils to support low-income households in carrying out energy-efficiency retrofits
The government says the funding will help the UK reach net-zero by 2050. But what does the sector think?
From housing associations to heat pump bodies, we’ve collated a range of responses from across the industry. Here’s what they had to say.
Chartered Institute of Housing
James Prestwick, director of Policy and External Affairs at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “Decarbonisation of the housing stock is one of the biggest hurdles that must be overcome for the United Kingdom to achieve its net-zero ambitions.
“It also provides a great opportunity to provide warm,comfortable homes for everyone that are affordable to heat. Today’s announcement includes much to be positives about.
“We particularly welcome the announcements that mean people can access new funding to install low-carbon heating in their home and It is good to see an initial £800m allocated to the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund.
“CIH has long called for the detail of the scheme to be brought forward and this first tranche is a solid step in the right direction.
“So, whilst welcoming the announcements today we also urge greater ambition from the government.
“Achieving overall net zero targets will require more significant long-term investment in energy efficient homes as a key part of the UK’s approach to tackling the climate emergency and delivering a zero-carbon future for all.”
National Housing Federation
The National Housing Federation said: “The Heat and Buildings Strategy announced today marks an important first step towards decarbonising homes, which in England emit more carbon than all of the country’s cars combined.
“From what we’ve seen so far, we particularly welcome the commitment of the first part of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, as well as the clear signal that heat pumps are likely to be the primary source of home heat and the commitment to bring down electricity prices.
“We look forward to reviewing the strategy in its entirety.
“Housing associations are committed to working with the government over the coming months and years to help it deliver on its ambitious net zero plans.
“However, our new report today on decarbonising England’s social homes shows there is a lot of work to do to achieve this.
“We urge the government to use the upcoming Spending Review to make good on its commitment of a £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, which would allow housing associations to invest and plan long term.
“It’s also critical that we can work with government to give clarity on energy efficiency standards, and guidance on decarbonising our oldest and most inefficient homes.”
Federation of Master Builders
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “Today’s Heat and Buildings Strategy needs to set out a bold and long-term plan of action to tackle the impact of our homes on the climate.
“Unfortunately, it is not looking encouraging. Grants for heat pumps is a step in the right direction so we begin to reduce our reliance on polluting and volatile fossil fuels, but incentives are also needed to make our existing homes better insulated.
“The government appears to be only listening to one half of the story. If there is no detail in the Strategy on how we can address the megatonnes of carbon lost through the leaky walls and roofs of our homes, it will have failed and the benefits of installing heat pumps risk being lost.
“Without a long-term national retrofit strategy, including a proper skills plan and communications campaign, regular consumers won’t know what action they need to take, nor feel it’s within their grasp – and industry won’t take the long-term investment decisions needed to be ready to deliver.
“I can only hope that the chancellor will use next week’s Budget to address some of these gaps.”
Heat Pump Association
Chair of the Heat Pump Association Phil Hurley said: “The heat pump industry warmly welcomes these bold steps forward. The industry in the best shape it has ever been, with sales this year already double those seen ever before.
“This announcement is timed perfectly to take advantage of the Heat Pump Association’s recently launched training course, with the industry now ready to retrain the UK’s army of installers with the capacity to train up to 40,000 per year, to ensure consumers can find a suitably trained and skilled heat pump installer when they need one.
“Today’s announcement will give industry and installers a huge confidence boost that now is the time to scale-up and retrain in preparation for the mass roll out of heat pumps, as well as making heat pumps more affordable, so all consumers can soon access and enjoy the benefits of reliable low carbon heating that stands the test of time.”
UK Green Building Council
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC, said: “UKGBC welcomes today’s recognition by Government that we must move away from heating our buildings with fossil fuels – and that households must be helped to make the transition to clean electric heating.
“However, phasing out gas boilers from 2035 is not ambitious enough – there needs to be a clear cut-off date from 2030 to put us on track to meet net-zero.
“And £5,000 grants will help just 30,000 households – a drop in the ocean in the context of the 900,000 annual installations we need to see by 2028.
“Worse still, there’s no targeted financial help at all for low income households to embark on the journey to clean electric heating – meaning that the gap between rich and poor will widen, not close.
“Yet more concerning is the Strategy’s failure to address several key priorities that UKGBC’s recent work has shown are non-negotiable to a net-zero carbon built environment by 2050.
“The most crucial of these include a large scale domestic retrofit programme, energy performance standards that rely on actual energy use, and an immediate drive to tackle embodied carbon emissions from construction and whole life.
“This Heat and Buildings strategy provides scant further detail on any of these aspects, and falls well short of what is required to make the transition to clean heat speedy and fair.
“Energy efficiency 101 tells us that retrofitting homes with insulation and efficiency measures, has the multiple benefits of lowering fuel bills, enabling low carbon heat solutions to work more effectively, and creating jobs.
“If we don’t urgently take that basic first step we run the risk of overloading the electricity grid and continue to fail to meet the needs of society’s most vulnerable.
“It’s nothing short of shocking to see no reference to a successor for the ill-fated Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, and a huge missed opportunity to not introduce long-term structural drivers of consumer demand like Green Stamp Duty or 0% VAT on renovations.
“Equally disturbing to see no firm new proposals on ratcheting up minimum standards for privately rented homes or regulations to improve the energy performance of owner-occupied homes.
“We need all of these policies – and more – if our built environment is to stand any chance at all of getting to net zero.”
Patrick Chauvin, executive director of Homes at housing provider Stonewater, said: “Decarbonising the UK’s homes is one of the most significant challenges that housing providers like Stonewater are grappling with.
“We have been calling for the publication of a roadmap for this for some time, and so we’re pleased to see the breadth of commitment and revised targets in today’s Heat and Buildings Strategy. This will not only support us in tackling the climate emergency, but also help the sector to lift thousands of households out of fuel poverty.
“Ahead of the government publishing its strategy we have continued pursuing our ambitions of creating resilient affordable communities and embedding sustainability into both our new and existing homes.
“As well as trailblazing retrofit initiatives, we have commissioned Passivhaus schemes and MMC developments and, since April last year, we have followed a policy of not approving any new projects that include fossil fuel heating where we are the developer.
“We hope that other developers will do the same so that we can beat the 2035 target by some margin.
“Critical to the success of delivering the plans outlined in the Strategy is adequate funding.
“Our research found that over the next 10 years, it would require a total investment of £36bn to meet the scale of action needed to decarbonise the 1.76m social rented homes that currently fail to meet EPC of C.
“The government’s additional funding of £800m for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund is welcome, but doesn’t go far enough.
“We hope today’s announcement will give more housing providers the confidence to pursue sustainability strategies, as the sector continues to lead the way to implementing positive changes to achieve net-zero.”
On Twitter, Nottingham City Homes said: “Great news announced yesterday on the introduction of this fund. HAs will welcome this support to provide #EnergyEfficient homes.”
Dave Evans, CEO of the National Energy Foundation, said: “We welcome anything which will help households convert to low-energy heating solutions but whether this scheme goes far enough remains to be seen.”
Abri said: “£800m for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, which can be used by social landlords, including housing associations, to carry out energy efficiency upgrades in their tenants’ homes.”
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