Energy efficiency should be made a national infrastructure priority, according to a new report by Policy Exchange.
The think tank argued that this would help tackle fuel poverty and improve the efficiency of the nation’s building stock.
In a report titled Warmer Homes, Policy Exchange warned that 2.3 million households in England alone remain in fuel poverty and the problem affects a broad cross section of people, from low-income working households to pensioners.
The cost of living in an energy inefficient home is significant: people who live in the least efficient properties would have to spend up to £1,700 extra a year to heat their homes to a suitable level (between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius). The problem is most severe in older, detached properties, particularly those in rural areas off the gas grid, Policy Exchange said.
Whilst acknowledging that improvements have been made recently, the think tank claimed that the UK’s housing stock remains woefully inefficient compared with other European countries.
Policy Exchange calculated that the government is currently spending less than half of what’s required to meet its target of moving all fuel poor homes in England to a ‘Band C’ energy efficiency rating by 2030.
But the think tank believes that, rather than by increasing taxes or levies on energy bills, the £700 million per year funding gap can be met by focusing energy efficiency subsidies on fuel poor households, by introducing an ‘opt-in’ for the Winter Fuel Payment and by viewing energy efficiency as an infrastructure investment, with some of the government’s £100 billion infrastructure budget for the next five years earmarked for energy efficiency schemes.