In an attempt to meet its own target of reducing household carbon emissions to virtually zero by 2050, the Government has announced plans to offer more than one in four houses the chance of an environmental makeover. The Heat and Energy Saving Strategy has been launched by Ed Milliband, the energy and climate-change secretary, and Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, and is hoped to encourage homeowners to implement measures such as ground or air-source heat pumps, solar heating, solid wall insulation and community heating schemes. “We need to move from incremental steps on household energy efficiency to a national plan,” said Milliband. “Wasted energy is costing families on average £300 per year, and a quarter of all our emissions are from our homes.”
The proposal is only in its draft stage so the details have yet to be finalized, but what will it mean for homeowners? The basic principles are as follows;
Although the final details will not be available until after the consulting period (12 weeks) is over, the easiest way to find out what you are entitled to now, is to visit the “Home Improvement” section of the Energy Saving Trust’s website (energysavingtrust.org.uk) and do a “search for grants and offers.” At the moment though, you need to be on benefits or be over 70 to qualify for the lion’s share of the offers available. This is something that the government need to address if they are to get the vast majority of Britain’s homeowners on board the green express.
One thing is for sure – the strategy is very ambitious; an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050, all suitable homes to have loft and cavity wall insulation by 2015, homes having access to “whole house improvements” by 2030. It is probably reasonable to state that most homeowners are already endeavouring to insulate their houses and fit more efficient appliances to save on their over-inflated energy bills. However, the likes of solar panels and wind turbines are out of the financial reach of most households. When the government talks about ground-source and air-source heat pumps and community heating schemes, one can only presume that they are referring to eco-friendly new-builds, normally provided by housing associations. To quote the Housing Minister, Margaret Beckett; “Social housing must be at the forefront of these changes. People living in social housing stand to gain the most from these proposals, as they are amongst the most likely to be living in fuel poverty.”