Making homes more energy efficient to boost jobs, improve lives and cut carbon should be a key part of the economic recovery from coronavirus, it has been urged.
The Government should invest £2.8 billion in a two-year stimulus package which would support 42,500 jobs across the country and help a million households save an average of £270 on their energy bills, a report said.
The study from the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group, made up of businesses, charities and industry groups, comes amid growing calls for a “green” recovery to help the economy and tackle the climate crisis.
The UK has targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero overall by 2050.
That will require tackling the 20% of emissions that come from homes, including by reducing the amount of energy wasted through leaky roofs, walls and windows.
The report calls for a focus on measures to improve homes and cut bills and emissions from buildings, including installing loft and solid wall insulation, double-glazed windows and energy-saving heating controls and lighting, as well as clean heating technology such as heat pumps.
Many energy efficiency projects are “shovel ready”, with local authority, housing association and community energy organisation schemes in place that could be quickly funded, the report argues.
It would deliver a boost to jobs in the construction industry, which has been badly hit by the pandemic lockdown, helping local tradesmen and small businesses including builders, plumbers and labourers back into work.
Improving the energy efficiency of homes makes them warmer and healthier to live in, helps those struggling to pay heating bills and puts money in consumers’ pockets – which delivers a further boost to the economy.
And it helps “level up” the situation across the UK by focusing investment – and stimulating jobs – in areas most affected by unemployment and fuel poverty, the report said.
The Government must deliver on and bring forward its commitments on energy efficiency, deploying £1.5 billion to improve energy efficiency for low income households, social housing and public buildings in the next two years.
Further incentives for homeowners and landlords worth £1.2 billion, such as stamp duty rebates for efficient homes and cheap loans for renovations, will help unlock billions more in private investment, the report said.
The authors added that £100 million in grants due to come in in 2022 for people to install clean technology such as heat pumps, which heat homes without using gas or oil, should be introduced immediately.
The report also called for training for those who cannot immediately return to work, so they have skills such as the ability to install heat pumps and accreditation to carry out renovations to meet quality standards.
Social distancing will need to be maintained, but much of the work takes place outside or in self-contained spaces such as lofts, while training is often done in warehouse-like facilities where people can keep their distance, report author Pedro Guertler said.
Mr Guertler, who is head of energy efficiency at climate and energy think tank E3G, said: “There is no other infrastructure project that can do more for the UK’s clean and resilient economic recovery than making our buildings energy efficient.
“It can quickly boost local jobs in areas of greatest need, stimulate demand by saving households hundreds of pounds whilst improving health and slashing carbon emissions.”
It must be at the heart of the Chancellor’s stimulus plan, he urged.
Tom Thackray, director of infrastructure and energy at business group the CBI, said: “A national energy efficiency programme is long overdue and now is the time to deliver.
“This is essential if we are to reach net-zero emissions and delivering this programme would create a major employment opportunity – providing much-needed jobs across the UK and supporting our economic recovery.”