Millions of tonnes of carbon and billions of pounds from fuel bills could be saved by simple measures like cavity wall insulation, new Government analysis reveals today.
The initial report from the Review of the Sustainability of Existing Buildings shows that millions of homes across the country could benefit from cost effective improvements which cut both carbon emissions and fuel bills.
Widespread implementation of such improvements could save around 7MtC (million tonnes of carbon) a year.
In a speech to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change, Yvette Cooper said more needed to be done to give householders the information and support they need to make changes to their homes.
She highlighted the potential of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) introduced next year to be linked to green mortgages or schemes such as the council tax rebates offered by some councils funded by energy companies.
And she said the need for more homes across the country gave us the chance to develop new energy efficient technologies which can be exported worldwide.
Yvette Cooper said:
"This research suggests our existing homes and buildings could offer some of the most cost effective ways to cut our national emissions over the next few years. After all, many of the measures needed to cut carbon from our homes also help cut our fuel bills as well.
"New housing should be seized on as an opportunity to increase environmental standards rather than as a threat. The sheer scale of new building is an opportunity to raise standards, to develop and implement new technologies and reap the benefits of economies of scale.
"To make the difference we need by 2050 we will need radical changes to the way we heat and power our existing homes as well as new ones. Whether it be turf on the roof, wind turbines in the garden, heat pumps below the basement, or micro CHP (Combined Heat Power) boilers, the homes of the future will need to be powered in a completely different way. And we need to develop the technology to support our Victorian terraces and sixties tower blocks as well as our modern new homes."
The review shows:
implementing measures with the fastest pay back and replacing boilers over time could save 7MtC a year and make householders better off;
cavity wall insulation has increased from 20 per cent of our housing stock in 1996 to 36 per cent in 2003;
the number of homes with over 150mm of loft insulation increased by 4 million between 2001 and 2004;
a further 8.5m homes could benefit from cavity wall insulation saving 2.1MtC a year;
cavity wall insulation typically costs £340 to fit and pays for itself within 2.6 years. (Over a 5 year period householders would get a 200 per cent return on their investment). In practice, these costs and the payback period can be reduced through grants and subsidies, with some householders, on qualifying benefits, being eligible for free installation;
increasing loft insulation could help 6.1m homes and deliver carbon savings of 1.2m a year. Pay back time for loft insulation is 2.7 years and householders get a 180 per cent return over 5 years. Again grants and subsidies are available;
reaching the 60 per cent target by 2050 will require high take up of microgeneration including emerging technologies such as heat pumps and micro CHP (combined heat and power);
research suggests that costs of low and zero carbon technologies could be reduced significantly for each doubling of installed capacity; and
social housing is on average more energy efficient than private housing.