Green Homes Grant energy efficiency
Retrofitting the UK's 28 million existing homes is a vital part of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050

Government urged to invest £5.3bn in green retrofits

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Karl Tomusk

With UK homes accounting for 35% of the country’s energy use, the Construction Leadership Council has urged the government to back its 20-year blueprint for retrofitting existing houses in the forthcoming Heat and Buildings Strategy.

The CLC today published the second iteration of the National Retrofit Strategy, which advocates for a phased approach to retrofitting 28 million homes over the next two decades.

As part of the strategy, the CLC has asked the government to invest £5.3bn over the next four years, which would create 100,000 jobs, generate more than £12bn of revenue, provide additional GDP of more than £21bn and unlock £11.4bn of private capital.

In a letter to Kwasi Kwarteng, the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, the CLC wrote: “If the UK is to meet our world leading carbon reduction targets, create jobs and level up, we must address the energy and water inefficiency of our 28 million homes.

Wide scale domestic retrofit is essential to the net-zero agenda and backing a longterm strategy will help position the UK as global market leader in the low carbon economy ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November.”

The letter was signed by more than 40 organisations, including Arup, the Federation of Master Builders and RICS.

The four phases the plan proposes are:

  • Phase 1 (2021): underpin capability, including an endorsement by the government of this strategy.
  • Phase 2 (2022-24): a slower start focusing on the education of householders and the wider industry through a clear communications campaign and an intensive training programme for new entrants to the industry. Piloting and field trials would also be taking place.
  • Phase 3 (by 2030): a ‘quick’ middle period based on a mature supply chain ecosystem and strong customer protection.
  • Phase 4 (by 2040): a ramp down of pace towards the end focusing on hard-to-treat properties, and also a phased redeployment of resources to alternate sectors.

Alongside the environmental benefits of investing in retrofits, such as heat pump installations and insulation measures, the CLC said there are strong economic and social reasons behind its plan.

Socially, retrofits would give households additional disposal income from lower energy bills, health benefits from improved living conditions and a more comfortable place to live. Upgrading substandard homes would help solve the problem of excess deaths due to cold, which totalled 8,500 in the winter of 2019/20.

The CLC cited figures from the Committee on Climate Change, which estimated that spending £10bn on poor quality housing in England alone would save the NHS about £1.4bn per year.

Economically, substantial retrofit investments would boost the repair, maintenance and improvement sector, which represents a third of all construction output. Every region would require new and higher skilled jobs, which would – as the report argued – complement the government’s levelling up agenda.

However, the plan would require £523.7bn in total between now and 2040, including a commitment of £167.6bn from the government.

The CLC argued that the benefits would far outweigh the costs, with every £1 invested returning £2 to the economy. An average home could expect £436 of energy savings per year.

Mark Reynolds, deputy chair of the Construction Leadership Council, said: “Our homes account for 20% of UK carbon emissions and 35% of energy use. To deliver on the prime minister’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, the construction industry must work with the Government and take action on reducing the environmental impact of our buildings.

“As an integral part of the CLC’s Co2nstruct Zero campaign, I am pleased that the National Retrofit Strategy is steadily gaining supporters ahead of United Nations Climate Change Conference in November.”

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