As George Osborne promises to reduce household energy bills by £50 per year, Knauf Insulation is asking what the true cost of these savings will be for the insulation industry.
In his Autumn Statement the Chancellor has confirmed reports that the carbon reduction component of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) will be reduced and that the scheme will be extended for a further two years, thus shrinking the cost to customers energy bills. In addition, grants of up to £1,000 will be made available to home buyers to install energy efficiency measures equivalent to half the cost of stamp duty on the average house.
Steven Heath, Knauf Insulations External Affairs Director, commented: The Government is proudly proclaiming to have saved us all £50 off our energy bills, but in reality how has this been achieved? Yes, perhaps it will reduce bills this year and this year alone thats if wholesale gas prices dont go up of course but what will the real cost be to the insulation industry?
The reduction in solid wall insulation targets for example, has put 10,000 jobs in jeopardy and represents a serious missed opportunity to improve the efficiency of some of the UKs coldest and leakiest homes. Whats more, those most likely to lose out will be the community based solid wall insulation programmes that are primarily delivered through social housing providers - meaning more local jobs will be lost and the most vulnerable households will be left to suffer through yet another winter in cold, hard to heat homes.
At least the announcement of the new homeowner grants provides some welcome relief in the Chancellors statement, however its worth pointing out that private housing particularly private rented housing has the worst efficiency levels of all the UKs housing stock, so incentives are desperately needed in this sector. The money released for private housing is a step in the right direction but it is cancelled out by the huge leap backwards for ECO.
We urgently need a sustainable policy framework that drives renovation of all our housing stock, across all tenures AND for all construction types. Not this flipping of focus between solid walls and loft and cavities, or between local authority-led schemes and the owner-occupier market.
The original ambition was to retrofit 14 million homes by 2022, so has this statement brought us any closer to that? In a word, no, but the perverse cost of George Osbornes £50 savings is that many thousands of households living in the most inefficient houses will continue to be exposed unnecessarily to rising energy prices year after year.