A new report puts yet more pressure on the government to transform its energy strategy as worries over long-term production and supply grow.
The Cambridge Econometrics report focuses on the financial case for energy efficiency, while also underlining the broader social benefits.
The authors, Pratima Washan, Jon Stenning, Max Goodman make a strong and detailed argument for a radical development of national energy policy on behalf of Energy Bill Revolution and other sponsors.
Cutting energy use is paramount, particularly now that there are concerns, for example, over costs of the Hinkley C nuclear power station and doubts over its construction. The UK capacity to produce energy is under great strain and the need to import more gas brings its own political uncertainties.
‘Building the Future: Economic and fiscal impacts of making homes energy efficient’ advises: “Improving the energy efficiency of UK homes is an effective way to bring down energy bills, and offers a long term solution to fuel poverty. In addition, it is important to drive carbon emissions reductions, with buildings responsible for almost 37% of all UK carbon emissions.”
This level of coherent, closely argued research is very welcome as it will increase the pressure on the government to develop the comprehensive national energy efficiency policy that is sorely needed.
While the report examines the energy efficiencies needed in homes to reduce heating costs, we would add that no energy-saving strategy is complete without serious support for electricity efficiencies in the form of LED lighting and sustainable reductions in water use, cutting energy used for heating and pumping, through eco showers and eco taps.
The report suggests that by insulating six million homes by 2025, as part of a wider energy efficiency plan up to 2030 the government will create 108,000 jobs.
The team’s research shows the “significant economic, fiscal, and environmental benefits” of investing in domestic energy efficiency. They say that the programme would deliver a three-fold return in GDP for every pound invested, create local jobs across the country, reduce gas imports by a quarter and play a key role in meeting carbon emissions reductions targets..
What’s more this can be achieved through a cost neutral programme that will be a net revenue generator for government in the longer term.
According to the report, the total energy bill savings across the housing stock equal £8.61 billion per annum with a net benefit £4.95 billion a year, after “able-to-pay” energy efficiency loans are repaid. That is an extraordinary energy dividend for households and this could be extended further through LED lighting and water-saving strategies.
Payback on both LED lighting and water-saving eco showers and eco taps is swift and the savings are repeated over a decade or more before any need to replace fittings.
If the UK switched over to LED lighting, the nation could save 10% of its electricity bill and do without eight new power stations, according to Sir Colin Humphrey, director of research at Cambridge University.
Every one of us uses around 55,000 litres of water every year on average and power showers can use even more water than a bath so use eco shower heads that mix air with water flow and cut consumption by more than 50%.
The Cambridge Econometrics report estimates that the national carbon footprint would shrink by around 23.6MtCO2 a year by 2030, even after taking into account effects from increased economic activity. Most of the emissions reductions come directly from reduced consumption of natural gas in homes, but around a quarter come from the power sector, as a result of reduced demand for electricity.
We’ve advocated over a long time for a more comprehensive and coherent national energy-efficiency policy that helps homes – and businesses – to make the changes they need to cut energy and water consumption. The Cambridge Econometrics report is a valuable reinforcement and a clear call for the government to act quickly and decisively.