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Government Plan to Make our Houses Greener





Model house and wind turbine


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;

 

  • Homeowners will be offered loans to pay for energy-efficiency measures and low carbon heat and power sources.  It is proposed that the loans are paid back using the money saved on energy bills and the loan is linked to the property rather than the individual to further encourage people to invest.
  • Low-cost home-energy audits are to be made available.
  • The energy advisers are to have a special qualification and installers are set to have an accreditation scheme.
  • Expansion of existing schemes with energy companies who subsidise measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation, high efficiency appliances and low-energy light bulbs.
  • Small-scale generation of your own electricity will be encouraged with guaranteed payments for feeding electricity back into the national grid under something called the Renewable Heat Incentive.
  • Help for 90,000 homes in low-income areas under the Community Energy Savings Programme.  This is expected to be backed to tune of £350m by energy suppliers.

 

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.”