End of the campaign

Three years ago the Energy Bill Revolution campaign was started to achieve cross party support for accelerating investment into energy efficiency. Building an alliance of 200 charities, businesses, unions and health bodies we secured backing from hundreds of MPs from across all major parties and 100,000 members of the public. Support gathered for a programme to make home energy efficiency an infrastructure priority which would save people in cold homes hundreds of pounds off their energy bill and cut carbon emissions.

With ground breaking research on fuel poverty, the UK housing stock and the economic benefits of insulating homes, we generated 400 pieces of media coverage and built up pressure into the 2015 election. Our solution was included in the manifestos of all the major political parties but one.

Since the election Scotland has announced that it will make energy efficiency an infrastructure priority, the Committee on Climate Change has recommended this approach be adopted across the UK and the Infrastructure Projects Authority has included it in their infrastructure pipeline.

However, rather than invest in warm homes money is being cut from programmes to help the fuel poor – so whilst the public Energy Bill Revolution campaign is ending, the fight goes on.


What is the Energy Bill Revolution?

The Energy Bill Revolution was a public campaign, run by an alliance of organisations, calling for warm homes and lower energy bills. We were asking the Government to make the UK’s homes super-energy efficient. This would drive down energy bills, end fuel poverty, help tackle child poverty, create jobs, improve health and reduce carbon emissions.


Why is the Energy Bill Revolution needed?

High energy bills are causing immense financial hardship across the UK. Average household bills have doubled in the past six years from around £600 a year in 2006 to more than £1,300 a year now.

The main reasons for this are high gas, oil and coal prices, and the fact that the UK’s homes are some of the least energy efficient in Europe, leaking heat from their doors, walls and windows. This means they cost much more than they should to heat and keep warm.

As a result, millions of people are now in fuel poverty and the situation is getting worse. Older people, children and people with disabilities or health problems are all particularly vulnerable to the mental and physical impacts of living in homes they can’t afford to keep warm. On average 25,000 people die from the cold every winter with at least a third of these deaths due to people living in cold homes.

Meanwhile, about 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from homes. Reducing these emissions is crucial if we are to tackle climate change and meet carbon reduction targets.

The only permanent solution is to make all UK homes super-energy efficient. But to make this happen the Government has to spend more money to insulate millions of homes. Home energy efficiency should be a priority infrastructure investment.

This investment would create more growth and jobs than any comparable spending or tax cutting programme.


Is housing infrastructure?

Infrastructure is defined as the basic structures and facilities needed for a society to operate Housing is a core part of the UK’s infrastructure but it is not yet a part of the UK’s infrastructure investment programme. This is despite the fact the UK has the oldest building stock in Europe with among the poorest levels of insulation.

The Government plans to invest over £100 billion in infrastructure in the next Parliament but  there are no plans to retrofit homes, so far.


Where is this money going to come from?

The Energy Bill Revolution is calling for home energy efficiency to be a UK infrastructure investment priority. The programme can be funded in the same way as other infrastructure, through a mix of public and private capital.

Those in fuel poverty are the most in need of warm efficient homes but the least able to invest. Public infrastructure funds should be used to bring these homes up to EPC band C, keeping homes warm, their occupants health and generating returns for the treasury.

Those who are in inefficient homes but are able to invest should be offered 0% loans (as has worked well in Europe) so that the initial investment is public, but increasingly private as the loan is paid off. This will also generate a large return to the treasury whilst cutting carbon and helping us reach our Carbon Budgets.


How does the Energy Bill Revolution want the Government to spend the money?

The Energy Bill Revolution wants the Government to set up a programme to make all 6 million low income homes highly energy efficient by 2025, reaching at least Band C on an Energy Performance Certificate. We want 2 million low income homes treated to this standard by 2020. We support the development of a street by street area based approach in partnership with local authorities and trusted local organisations. Low income households would be given free energy efficiency measures to ensure their home was brought up to this standard. We estimate that the average cost would be £4,000 per home with the average household receiving three energy efficiency measures.


Will it help to create jobs?

Yes, it is estimated that using carbon taxes to help make people’s homes more energy efficient could create over 108,000 direct and indirect jobs.  These jobs could be created quickly and in every constituency across the UK.


Why is energy efficiency the best way to bring down energy bills and solve fuel poverty?

The only permanent way to lower bills and keep homes warm is to make our homes as energy efficient as possible. By minimising your energy use, you can minimise your energy bill – so you’re not having to pay for wasted heat that leaks through doors, walls and windows.


What kind of energy efficiency measures are you talking about?

Typical measures that could be installed to make a home more energy efficient include: loft insulation; cavity wall insulation; solid wall insulation; draught proofing; floor insulation; ventilation with heat recovery; insulated doors; heating controls; solar thermal for those with a south-facing roof; double or triple glazing; heat pumps; condensing, high efficiency gas boilers and biomass boilers.


Who is running this campaign?

The Energy Bill Revolution is an alliance of charities, unions, consumer groups, businesses, health and social care groups, politicians, public figures and everyday people. Together, we are calling on the Government to make the UK’s homes super-energy efficient, for this to be an infrastructure priority and to use the money it gets from carbon taxes to do it. This would reduce energy bills, bring 9 out of 10 homes out of fuel poverty, cut carbon emissions, improve the nation’s health AND create jobs in the low carbon economy. For a full list of who’s on board, visit here.

It is not led by any political party, but we seek the support of all politicians. The Energy Bill Revolution is a public campaign, coordinated by Transform UK, a programme of the sustainable development organisation E3G.


How is energy efficiency linked to climate change and carbon emissions?

The UK Government has accepted the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change and agreed to reduce carbon emissions by 50% (over 1990 levels) by 2027. Reducing emissions from homes is crucial if we are to meet these overall targets. But at the moment the Government risks falling short.

About 37% of all the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from non-industrial buildings and about 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from homes. The Government has two flagship energy efficiency policies, the Green Deal and the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). Unfortunately, without greater support, they will fail to reduce carbon emissions at the scale required. The Government needs to find additional carbon savings from buildings which are up to four times as great as the carbon savings projected to come from the Green Deal and ECO combined. Unless the Government offers households greater financial assistance, they are likely to miss their climate change targets.


What is fuel poverty?

There are now two different definitions for fuel poverty, the original definition which has been retained by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and a new definition for England.

The new definition of fuel poverty for England is based on households and people who are both living below the poverty line and have energy bills which are higher than the median energy bill. This new definition introduced at the end of 2013 has significantly reduced the number of households assessed to be in fuel poverty. Under this new definition at the start of 2014 we estimate there are 2.46 million English households in fuel poverty and 7 million people in fuel poverty. The number of people, households and children in fuel poverty have all increased from 2013 to 2014.

Under the original definition of fuel poverty a households is assessed as fuel poor if it needs to spend 10% or more of its income on energy in order to keep warm. At the start of 2014 there were 6.59 million households in the UK in fuel poverty, up from 5.86 million households at the start of 2013. This is an increase of almost a million households in fuel poverty in the UK, up 12.6%. There are approximately 890,000 households in fuel poverty in Scotland (up 12%), 425,000 households in fuel poverty in Northern Ireland (up 12%) and 450,000 households in fuel poverty in Wales (up 13%).


What is the impact of fuel poverty?

Many people in fuel poverty simply can’t afford to keep their homes warm. Living in cold homes can be very damaging to physical and mental health. Older people are at particular risk of health problems as a result of living in fuel poverty, but children and people with disabilities or illnesses are also very vulnerable.

More people die in winter due to the effects of the cold. In most countries with a similar climate to the UK, the death rate also increases in winter, but in very few other countries is the increase as marked as it is in the UK. This is because the UK’s homes are so energy inefficient.

The additional deaths in this period are called Excess Winter Deaths, and over the last five years there have been on average 26,000 Excess Winter Deaths each year in the UK. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 30% and 50% of all Excess Winter Deaths are due to illnesses caused by living in cold homes. This means on average over the last five years at least 7800 people have died every year due to living in cold homes – four times more than the number of people who die on British roads.

For more information about fuel poverty, visit here.


Doesn't the government already give grants for energy efficiency and insulation?

In 2013 the Government introduced a new grant scheme in England to help people make their homes more energy efficient (the devolved administrations have committed to continue their own schemes until at least 2016). The scheme is called the Energy Company Obligation and the money is raised via a levy on energy bills. This programme requires energy companies to improve the energy efficiency of homes through the installation of energy efficiency measures such as loft, cavity and solid wall insulation. About £1 billion will be spent every year by energy suppliers through this scheme. The level of funding was reduced in the Autumn Statement in 2013 to reduce green levies on energy bills. The Government announced it would introduce new incentives for landlords and those moving home to insulate their homes in 2014. The overall investment in home energy efficiency is not expected to increase as a result of these policy changes and may decline. In 2013, as the ECO was introduced there was a crash in the number of installations of energy efficiency measures. Cavity wall insulation measures reduced by 74%, solid wall insulation measures reduced by 68% and loft insulation measures crashed by 90%.


What is the Green Deal?

The Green Deal is a new Government scheme that will be introduced at the end of 2012. Green Deal providers will offer packages of energy efficiency measures to households, worth up to £10,000. The householder then pays for these measures via a charge on their electricity bill.

The Green Deal charge is fixed to the property, so that if the owner or tenant leaves, the charge will stay with the home. The Green Deal is designed to help remove the upfront cost of energy efficiency measures and encourage take up because it is fixed to the property, not the person. This means that if you move you do not have to continue making the repayments on the charge. They will pass on to the next owner or tenant. There is a ‘Golden Rule’ which means you can only install measures which are expected to lead to savings on your energy bill after you have taken into account your repayments.


Is the Green Deal enough to deliver warm homes and lower bills?

The Green Deal has so far been a failure with only a few hundred households taking up the loans in 2013. The main reason for the lack of success is attributed to the interest rate on the loans being too high (approx 8%) and the complexity of the scheme, both of which are putting off consumers. In Germany they have a very successful loan scheme for energy efficiency which offers loans at 1% with simple contracts available from high street banks. In 2012 over 300,000 loans were issued in Germany. Energy efficiency loans are potentially a valuable product for the able to pay but they are not the right option for the fuel poor who do not want to get into debt and need direct financial support to make their homes energy efficient.