The Labour Government published Warm Homes, Greener Homes: a Strategy for Household Energy Management in early March 2010. Later in the same month, the Conservatives published Rebuilding Security, their energy policy document.
Labour Warm Homes, Greener Homes
Warm Homes, Greener Homes aims to:
- Cut carbon emissions from homes by 29% by 2020.
- Provide better access to advice, information, assurance and finance.
- Install loft and cavity wall insulation in every household where it is practical, by 2015.
- Improve up to seven million homes substantially, by measures such as solid wall insulation or heat pumps, by 2020. (The strategy notes that the cost of solid wall insulation can average £8 to £10,000 and that the total cost of delivering these standard and solid wall insulation levels will be around £18.6 billion to 2020.)
To help achieve these objectives, there will be:
“a focus on vulnerable households.”
This will include a new Warm Homes standard for social housing, complementing the Decent Homes standard:
“This would cover both insulation and connection where feasible to low carbon district heating or renewable heating.”
Solid wall insulation will be focused on social housing.
For ‘Pay As You Save’ (PAYS), the money will come from the private sector, including banks, repaid against future savings on bills. The cost of the upgrade will be attached to the home, not the homeowner. Local authorities will be encouraged to apply to the European Regional Development Fund:
“… for local community based projects in domestic energy efficiency.”
There will also be grants for district heating:
“We have provided financial support through the £25 million we are investing in schemes in England and the devolved administrations this year, with a further £5 million for England next year.”
In addition, there will be an expanded obligation on energy companies to save a fixed amount of carbon and to support householders in energy saving – including free upgrades for vulnerable households and subsidised upgrades for others. Failure to deliver adequate savings will result in fines of up to 10% of global earnings.
The strategy promises:
“… a new free and universally available advice service, plus more tailored advice through Home Energy Advice packages which will be subsidised as part of the new energy company obligation.”
Home Energy Advisers will audit properties and give advice on insulation, microgeneration and behavioural change. There will be accreditation for people who provide advice on home energy saving, the people who install measures and the products they use.
The strategy proposes:
“… a new strategic role for local authorities.”
They will be expected to develop Local Carbon Frameworks, and local partnerships promoting low carbon and renewable options, including heat networks in their areas. Energy companies will be obliged to work with local authorities, as in CERT and CESP.
There are two issues on which the government has not made a decision, despite consultation. The strategy only promises ‘consideration’ of local authorities borrowing against income streams from the new Feed-in-Tariffs or Renewable Heat Incentive to support investment in renewable energy projects in a community. And it refers to ‘plans’ to raise the standards of energy efficiency in the private rented sector:
“We will consult on how to formulate regulation so that the installation of loft and cavity wall insulation where feasible would be a condition of renting out a property from a date in the future, at the earliest 2015.”
The strategy highlights three specific programmes run by local councils:
- Braintree District Council’s project with British Gas since 2004, offering homeowners cavity wall and loft insulation at competitive prices, with council tax rebates:
“The council tax rebate option has proved very popular, with 1200 installations completed in Braintree so far and high reported rates of customer satisfaction. 78% of customers that have benefited report that they would not have had the work done if the Council Tax rebate was not on offer. Braintree Council have also used this opportunity to promote funding available under the Warm Front scheme. This model of local partnership has proved so successful it is now available in more than 60 local authorities.”
- Kirklees Council’s area-by-area project with Scottish Power to install home insulation measures:
“24% of the local population have already benefitted from energy efficiency measures, which means some 36,000 lofts insulated and 17,000 cavity walls filled… This co-ordinated approach to delivering a low carbon Kirklees has benefitted the community in a number of additional ways including: the creation of 129 local jobs; reduced fuel poverty and £7.8 million fuel bill savings per year.”
- Aberdeen’s district heating expansion, which has reduced:
“… the bills of many fuel poor consumers by 50%.”
The strategy also refers to the five PAYS pilots being run by Birmingham City Council, British Gas (in Sussex and Surrey), B&Q UK (working with Sutton Council), Gentoo (in Sunderland) and Stroud District Council, and to the Low Carbon Communities Challenge, launched in September 2009. However, there are no results or effects mentioned.
Conservative Rebuilding Security
The Conservatives published their energy policy document in March 2010. In the foreword, David Cameron says:
“Unless we diversify our energy sources, unless we upgrade our energy networks, unless we pay as much attention to energy efficiency as we do to energy production, then our energy supplies will be neither secure nor sustainable.”
The paper considers how to:
“… minimise the cost consumers will pay for energy, compared with what they would pay if current policies were to persist.”
The Conservatives support a Smart Grid and Smart Meters:
“Much of our national grid was conceived and constructed during the 1950s and 1960s. It was built at a time when consumers played a passive role, and electricity generation came from predictable, large-scale sources. It is, to a large extent, unsuited to a 21st century in which supplies come from a wider range of sources – from microgeneration to intermittent wind – and in which consumers need to be able to adjust their consumption much more flexibly … Smart grid technology has the potential to cut energy bills, enable the electrification of transport and banish black-outs to the history books. Yet, once again, Britain is falling behind our competitors – many of which are already running large-scale demonstrations or have even begun nationwide deployment. In Britain, the Government has announced plans to deploy smart meters by the end of 2020, a timescale of over a decade that is widely regarded as unambitious.”
Therefore the Tories say that they will:
- Accelerate the roll-out of smart meters, setting a deadline of the end of 2016 for most homes and businesses.
- Enshrine the principle that smart meter data belongs to the consumer, not the utility.
- Work with the industry to agree common standards that enable smart meter support for microgeneration, electric vehicles and consumer-controlled automation of appliances and heating systems.
They recognise that some subsidy is required for low-carbon energy sources, but seek to limit the duration:
“Subsidy will sometimes be required in the initial stages of immature technologies that can contribute to the objectives of energy policy, they will never be permanent: energy markets must be sustainable without public subvention.”
They also promise to offer every household a Green Deal on energy efficiency. This will be:
“… up to £6,500 worth of energy efficiency improvements at no upfront cost, with a higher limit for hard-to-treat homes. Householders would be entitled to an independent assessment that would identify the best opportunities for efficiency improvements to their homes. These improvements would then be carried out immediately by a kite-marked installer. The cost of the work would be repaid over the long-term from the resulting energy savings and through the energy bills payable at the property where the work is done.”
To try to get greater community support for onshore wind farms, they say that they would:
- Promote community ownership of wind farms.
- Allow host communities to retain the additional business rates.
- Provide electricity to local residents at discounted tariffs.
To promote district heating, they would introduce feed-in tariffs for the capture of waste heat (and small renewables):
“We will give local councils the power to identify areas that would be suitable for district energy schemes – such as those adjacent to heat-generating industrial facilities – and allow them to use the planning framework to promote integrated district heating schemes for those areas.”