New ONS figures show slow and stalling progress on greening homes

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  Posted by: electime      3rd November 2023

The Social Market Foundation responds to today’s release from the ONS on energy efficiency ratings of English and Welsh homes, which suggest a slowdown in uptake of heat pumps and insulation.

New data published by the Office for National Statistics demonstrates England’s slow progress on decarbonising home heating and improving homes’ energy efficiency, with the country going backwards on some measures, according to the Social Market Foundation, a cross-party think tank. The numbers suggest that the UK’s aims of reaching net zero by 2050 are in jeopardy, the SMF says.

The numbers published today show 68 per cent of new Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) registrations in England are still heating with mains gas, with only 12% heating through electricity.

Whilst the gap in median EPC rating between properties in the private rented sector (the worst performing tenure type for energy efficiency) and social housing has reduced, this is because the median efficiency rating of social housing has not changed since last year.

SMF analysis of the ONS figures also noted that percentage of new dwellings using renewable energy (including heat pumps) for central heating has dropped from 0.2 per cent last year to 0.17 per cent this year – even as the government remains short of its target of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year.

The figures come as government grants to households for installing heat pumps – an essential part of the decarbonising our housing – have been extended in an effort to accelerate the UK’s faltering progress. However, recent SMF research (See note 1) on the barriers to taking up energy efficiency in homes suggested that cost is not the only barrier that needs to be addressed – poor awareness and a lack of trust are also major issues.

In a report to be published in the coming weeks, the SMF will make recommendations for improving the take up of home insulation, including proposals for local authority-run ‘one stop shops’, providing information on how improve energy efficiency, how to access government support and showcasing reliable traders to complete the work.

Niamh O Regan, Researcher at Social Market Foundation, said:
“What’s notable in this year’s release is that progress towards the decarbonisation and electrification of home heat is stalling and, in some cases, going backwards. The percentage of new build homes using renewable heating (including heat pumps) has dropped and the change in the existing stock is barely noticeable. By 2030 the UK is supposed to have reduced its emissions by 68%, and we cannot get there without addressing our heating. Today’s figures show that we are well off track.”

Whilst extending the grant for heat pumps is a step in the right direction, the Government needs to go further to address consumers’ barriers to uptake – and redouble its commitment to hitting the milestones for achieving net zero 2050, so as to eliminate uncertainty.