The chancellor’s new home insulation grant scheme is a positive step, but more ambition is needed if we’re to make a lasting difference to the energy performance of UK homes, and avoid the failures of previous schemes. Thanks to new technology and service innovations, a solution exists; we just need a new mindset to unlock it.
The programme includes £5,000 grants to cover up to 2/3rds of the cost of home energy efficiency improvements (rising to £10,000 to cover the full cost for low-income homeowners). It’s a good scheme to deliver a short-term boost to performance and the market, with a fast start.
But to meet the UK’s carbon targets and create sustainable jobs in the long term, the government must go further. Short-term grants aren’t enough – we need a rolling programme of high-quality renovation to transform our built environment and create new jobs based on skills that will be relevant twenty years from now. And we need to decarbonise UK housing for all – not just owners of draughty old homes but social housing tenants, private renters and buyers of new builds too.
To do that successfully, we need to change the way we think about fabric energy efficiency.
All too often, refurbishment schemes are measured in terms of the m2 of insulation installed. That doesn’t take into account the variables that affect the success of a refurb in the real world – was the project designed and specced in the right way, and was the installation quality controlled at every stage? Any failings or compromises and the building’s EPC won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.
We need a change in approach. To focus on the outcome, not the output. In other words, we need to base it on the actual energy performance of individual buildings.
Earlier this week, we debuted an innovation that we believe gives the government a silver bullet for building energy efficiency.
Our sister company’s new digital approach uses sensors and machine learning to measure the actual fabric energy performance of individual homes in just 12 weeks. Unlike previous measurement technology which was expensive, intrusive and labour-intensive, these sensors are cost-efficient, discreet and fully scalable. It’s now viable to measure the energy performance of each and every home across an entire housing estate at once.
With this technology as the foundation, we’re working with our colleagues at Knauf Energy Solutions to build a service offering with quality control and guaranteed outcomes ‘baked in’ from the start.
For the government and taxpayers, that means a verified RoI for every penny invested in home energy efficiency. For the first time ever it’s possible to get what you pay for – not in terms of materials and labour, but in terms of results – reduced energy bills and carbon emissions.
And for tenants or purchasers, that means confidence in running costs – a real world ‘mpg’ for an individual home, so you can make informed decisions.
To bring through business models built on selling assured efficiency improvement, schemes such as those announced today must signal an intent to transition markets toward rewarding that assurance. If no such market making signal is offered, then these innovations are left to either compete against £billion subsidy schemes (a near impossible task) or look to other international markets for opportunities.
This is a historic opportunity to take a giant leap forward towards the UK’s net-zero carbon commitments, achieving “world-leading levels of energy efficiency” while creating skilled long-term jobs.
We’re still awaiting details on the £50m energy efficiency pilot scheme for social housing stock – but with large portfolios, settled tenants and a focus on their wellbeing it feels like the perfect place to start with a new ‘real world building performance’ approach.