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Government urged to realise economic benefits of better insulation

Improved insulation and other energy-efficiency measures can make a major difference to the level of energy use in UK homes, a new paper has claimed. 

The report by the UK Energy Research Centre and University of Sussex Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand has called on the government to do more to help householders to invest in new insulation and other measures to make homes more energy-efficient. It has criticised cuts made in the levels of support on offer and said that in the wake of the failed Green Deal, the 

Discussing the potential impact on energy use of the available measures, it lists insulation, more efficient energy systems, lighting and appliances as being ways in which energy use can be cut. 

According to the study, if the full extent of potential measures were put in place across the whole of Britain's housing stock, it would reduce energy use by a quarter. That would be the equivalent of the output of six nuclear power stations with the capacity of the forthcoming Hinkley C development, while reducing the average annual energy bill of £1,100 by £270. 

The direct economic benefit of investing in these measures would be worth an estimated £7.5 billion, while the wider effects could add another £47 billion in value, the study found. It calculated this from a range of benefits, including the health gains from people living in warmer homes, the stimulus to the economy of the investment in new energy efficiency measures and the value of the saved electricity output.

Speaking about the report, Director of the UK Energy Research Centre Jim Watson said: “This research proves that there is still huge potential to save energy from UK homes. It is clear that reducing energy demand needs to be a priority if the government is serious about bringing down energy bills. It should be the centrepiece of the Clean Growth Plan, which is now overdue.”

The capacity of energy-efficiency measures to slash fuel bills is not theoretical, but proven fact, Senior Fellow at the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand Jan Rosenow pointed out. She said: "Savings from energy efficiency improvements in homes since 2004 mean a typical dual fuel customer’s bill was £490 lower in 2015 than it would have been without those improvements. At the same time, households use more appliances, more lamps and enjoy higher in-home temperatures than they did in 2004."  

It is the second time in as many weeks that a report has been published emphasising the potential benefits of doing more to insulate Britain's homes, while explicitly criticising the pace at which such measures are being implemented at present.

The World Wide Fund for Nature report at the start of this month noted that around 20 per cent of UK emissions come from homes and said that at the current pace at which insulation is being fitted the UK will actually see its emissions rising by the 2030s, due to the extra energy being used. It also projected that it would take Britain over a century to meet housing energy-efficiency targets, too late to meet the goals outlined in the Paris climate agreement. 

Such arguments may have the impact of prompting the government to review and amend policies in order to ensure more UK homes are insulated.