Green guarantee 'should inspire other political parties'
The Green Party may not have any chance of winning the general election, but its plans to insulate nine million homes should inspire the larger political parties to adopt such a policy, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
Responding to the 'Green Guarantee' in the party's manifesto, FMB chief executive Brian Berry called the ambitious proposals "a welcome reminder of an environmental and social necessity that seems to have fallen off the political agenda in recent years".
He added: "A serious programme of investment to retrofit existing properties is sorely needed to bring British homes, which are among the oldest in Europe, up to scratch and limit ever-spiralling energy bills and high levels of fuel poverty." He warned that in the rush to build more homes, the need to ensure new properties are well insulated may be neglected.
Mr Berry said that other parties have simply opted for "tinkering" with energy prices, instead of recognising the benefits for both the environment and the battle against fuel poverty. He also noted the economic benefits that can arise from a mass programme of home insulation, with a quarter of households in fuel poverty and a quarter of emissions coming from residential properties.
The FMB boss concluded by saying the Greens alone had fully recognised the need to tackle both issues together and concluded: "The Green Party has recognised that both of these issues need to be tackled together and whoever wins the election would do well to take this lesson on board."
At the last two general elections the Green Party won Brighton Pavilion, and joint leader Caroline Lucas MP is expected to hold the seat. The party is also chasing the marginal Bristol West and has also expressed optimism about winning the Isle of Wight.
Having more green voices in parliament may help encourage the installation of more insulation, but the key will probably be the willingness of Conservative ministers to do more, as the party is expected to win the election comfortably.
Doing more to insulate homes should be a key priority for the party, electrical engineer and former Tory county councillor John Wall wrote on the Conservative Home website this week.
Discussing how this could help pensioners cut energy bills and thus counterbalance reductions in winter fuel allowance for wealthier old people, Mr Wall said: "Improving energy efficiency is a capital investment and at up to £300 per senior citizen per year the payback period is unlikely to be very long."
The former councillor also cited the benefits in terms of lower energy usage and reduced emissions, but he warned that "it is important that reducing energy usage is done as a complete package rather than piecemeal", suggesting measures such as loft insulation can be supplemented by measures such as draught-proofing and LED lighting, with the cost of this being kept down by large-scale programmes that buy such materials and devices in bulk.
"Some of this has already happened, there have been free insulation schemes, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive nationwide programme to reduce energy usage for pensioner households, recorded in a database that could be cross referenced to benefit payments," he added, suggesting this should be a priority for the government.
So it seems that both the Greens and one of the Conservative party's own members are very keen on raising the bar on insulation. It remains to be seen if this is what actually emerges once the election is done and dusted.