Ahead of the Autumn Budget on Thursday [17 November], a new YouGov poll reveals most Brits are either "very worried" (38%) or “fairly worried” (37%) about their energy bills following the Chancellor's decision to end the current Energy Price Guarantee in April 2023.
The poll — commissioned by UK100, the UK's only network of climate-ambitious local leaders and mayors — lands amidst reports Jeremy Hunt is looking to slash energy bill support and warning that all Brits face tax hikes.
With average household energy bills estimated to rise above £3,000 a year in 2023, the Government has faced criticism from across the political spectrum, industry, and academia for its failure to invest in a domestic energy efficiency programme to help reduce household bills in the near- and long-term.
In 2019, the Conservative Party manifesto pledged over £9 billion to domestic energy efficiency, but — three years and three Prime Ministers later — most Brits (75%) polled by YouGov are unclear on the Government's energy efficiency plans.
UK100 has been amongst the loudest voices calling for energy efficiency and demand reduction to be a central part of the Government's response to the energy crisis. And the network claims it has an "oven-ready, cost-neutral" plan to help the Chancellor reduce energy bills for some of the most vulnerable in Britain.
In a new report released today, UK100 outlines a plan the Government can implement to roll out an urgent social housing energy efficiency programme to reduce energy bills by up to £1,500 a year for tenants and kick-start a nationwide domestic energy efficiency drive.
The good news for the Chancellor is that the mid-term plan (2022 to 2028) laid out in the End the wait. Insulate. Social housing energy efficiency and the energy crisis report won't cost a penny more than has already been pledged to social housing energy efficiency spending.
And an energy efficiency plan focused on social housing is something Brits would support by a ratio of more than 5:1 (69% support, 13% oppose), according to the YouGov poll released today.
UK100's report recommends that a government-funded scheme introduced in 2021 is redesigned to turbo-boost its effectiveness. The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund works by inviting local authorities to compete for funding to upgrade the energy efficiency of the social housing stock in their communities.
UK100 argues that the scheme would be far more effective if the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ended the competitive nature of the funding and distributed it by need. The report also recommends that a redesigned scheme is run alongside the new UK Infrastructure Bank to maximise private investment and innovative green finance opportunities.
The scheme could upgrade over 550,000 social housing properties by 2028, supporting 40,000 jobs and saving residents up to £1,500 on their bills in the first year alone. The report argues that beyond 2028, a new £16 billion long-term investment to 2050 would ensure every single social housing property in the UK is upgraded to Net Zero standard, permanently reducing bills and supporting over 80,000 jobs.
Richard Clewer, the Conservative Party leader of Wiltshire Council, Co-president of UK100 and Chair of the Countryside Climate Network, says: "In the current crisis, the case for energy efficiency upgrades has never been stronger, as evidenced by this report. In Wiltshire, we have already taken significant strides in addressing the energy efficiency of our council-owned building stock. Our investment in our building stock is levelling up our area and building a more resilient workforce, all while reducing bills for some of the most vulnerable households."
"Social housing energy efficiency at scale is possible, and we could go further and faster on delivering cheaper bills and reaching Net Zero. Local authorities can be effective delivery partners, and the Government should capitalise on our ability and reach to do so. Wiltshire and the wider UK100 membership stands ready to work with the Government to deliver."
Commenting on the competitive nature of the current Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, an official from a non-metropolitan district council in the East of England, who wanted to remain anonymous, told UK100: "The grant applications for retrofit are an industry in themselves. They want so much detail, and it requires the input of so much time from numerous people there is no time left to do our day job. I cannot imagine how many people are employed by BEIS to review these enormous applications.
"If we do not win any money, we will have spent at least six weeks full-time work — it is a waste. Imagine what we could do to progress other projects with that time. They need to allocate funding, give sensible clear guidance, and then have an auditor to work with all the projects to ensure fraud is prevented and quality projects are delivered. The key message is: trust your local authorities."
Lucie Middlemiss, fuel poverty expert and Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Leeds, says: "This winter is proving hugely challenging for households facing high energy bills in poorly insulated homes. The consequences of under-heating for health and well-being are well-evidenced and highly detrimental.
"Increasing insulation for poorer households can have life-changing consequences: making people healthier, happier and less likely to take time off work. UK100’s proposal to increase the pace of retrofit for social housing is a timely and important one. It makes sense because social housing organisations and local authorities already have a track record of delivery on retrofit, as well as providing homes for some of the most vulnerable people. Speeding up this programme will result in big quality of life improvements."
Polly Billington, UK100 Chief Executive, adds: "Brits are facing a bleak winter. And as the polling shows, many are understandably frightened about what the future holds once the Energy Price Guarantee ends in April."
"But the Autumn Budget presents the Chancellor with a golden opportunity to embrace a real, long-term plan to bring bills down permanently. The Government has overlooked the importance of energy efficiency for too long. It's not sexy or headline-grabbing. But our report sets out an oven-ready, cost-neutral plan for an energy efficiency drive to alleviate pressure on the most vulnerable – and it won't cost the earth."
“The cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use. To avoid another winter like this one, we need a locally-led energy efficiency strategy focused on social housing to slash household bills long-term, kickstart the energy market, create jobs, and accelerate Net Zero progress. The more urgently it's implemented, the better it can protect Brits from the misery of £3,000-a-year energy bills. It's time to end the wait and insulate."
Janine Michael, Interim Deputy Chief Executive of the Centre for Sustainable Energy, the organisation that carried out the research in the new End the wait. Insulate. report, adds: “The report analysis uses the well-established National Household Model (NHM) developed through years of work with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Scenario modelling in the NHM provides a credible method for estimating the cost of energy efficiency upgrades delivered at scale.
“We need a large-scale home retrofit programme to help tackle the problem of soaring energy bills and cold homes. We need to literally insulate people from the impact of future energy price increases. In England alone, there are 4.1 million socially rented homes, so investment in the social housing sector can play a huge role in developing the retrofit market by kick-starting supply chain development and increasing capacity.”
Information on the polling
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,733 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th - 14th November 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
UK100 is a network of the most ambitious local leaders working towards Net Zero as soon as possible but no later than 2045. We help them collaborate to take decisive action in their communities.
Our members represent more than 37 million people in towns, cities and counties across the UK.
We facilitate knowledge-sharing between members, partnership-building and leadership mentoring. And support them to harness their collective power to affect vital national change.
Warm homes, affordable energy, clean air, and healthy landscapes make thriving communities.
And UK100 members have pledged to deliver a Net Zero future that delivers for people and planet.
- More information: Liam Ward, UK100, firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0)7456 554103