Last Tuesday in the House of Commons a debate under the title of Action on Climate Change and Decarbonisation took place and the first person who spoke was the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Philip Dunne who is the Conservative MP for Ludlow in Shropshire. The second person to speak was my MP Caroline Lucas who made a very clear call focused on Home Insulation and the response from Philip Dunne was very positive. The whole of the debate is available here and the call from Caroline is as follows:
The right hon. Member is talking about the recalibration that is needed in the Department. Does he agree with me that one area where that is extremely true is the need for a proper home insulation programme? We have never seen this Government get that right, in spite of the £11.7 billion allocated to the energy bills support scheme, which is of course welcome. What we need is a proper home insulation programme—street by street, local authority-led—and we still do not have it.
The response from Philip Dunne came briefly after her call and then he continued to make his own statement but at the end of his speech he then responded more fully. So here are the two elements.
The hon. Lady makes a very important point, and she made a strong contribution to our Committee’s report on the inquiry into the energy efficiency of existing homes. I will comment on that in my remarks, but I broadly agree with her.
And then he said later
I will focus the remainder of my brief remarks on the points that my Committee made last session in its report on the energy efficiency of existing homes, to which Caroline Lucas referred. It seems that this is the area where greatest progress can be made towards the net-zero target, and in the shortest time. It was also the area that many witnesses before the Committee identified as a missing component from the recent energy security strategy.
I was pleased that late last month Ministers laid before Parliament the draft legislation needed to implement the fourth energy company obligation scheme. That hugely successful scheme has driven energy efficiency improvements in a great many domestic properties. Such improvements will reduce consumer bills. They will also reduce energy consumption, and thereby emissions from power generation. In the nine years of the scheme’s operation to date, it has supported cavity wall insulation in over 1 million properties. That is impressive, but there are still some 19 million homes that need upgrading to energy performance certificate band C. The cost estimate on which our Committee received evidence averaged £18,000 per property. Our Committee, I am afraid, found that the Government estimate for decarbonising Britain’s housing stock by 2050, at some £65 billion overall, was highly likely to be a significant underestimate. Welcome though the ECO is—last month, the chair of E.ON told the Committee about industry support for the scheme—it represents only a small fraction of what is genuinely necessary to achieve domestic energy efficiency. Will the Minister be in a position to elaborate further on the Department’s plans to drive energy efficiency in existing homes? It is not immediately apparent in the spending plans that the House is examining.
It is unlikely that the average householder will be able to afford a one-off payment of about £20,000 to upgrade their property without some incentive from the centre. I do not want to hark back to the green homes grant voucher scheme, but I hope that the Government have learned the lessons from its introduction. It was a well-meaning scheme that could have kick-started energy efficiency improvement, but it was strangled by red tape and ultimately abandoned in less than a year, having reached only a fraction of the homes that it was expected to improve.