Ashden says UK Energy Strategy misses the ‘3 Rs’ – Rapid transition away from fossil fuels, more Renewables and major Retrofits

Climate charity Ashden says the government’s new energy security strategy falls far short of the dramatic action needed. The gaping hole in the strategy is the lack of action on backing the building of energy-efficient homes and low carbon refurbishment of old ones, and the growth of modern, sustainable, renewable energy heating systems. The cost of living crisis and the climate crisis can both be tackled by a ruthless focus on the Three Rs: Rapid Transition away from oil and gas; more renewables – which are cheaper and quicker to bring online – and a major programme of Retrofitting all our homes.

This massive infrastructure drive would boost energy resilience and lower emissions, but also tackle fuel poverty and protect family finances, improve health, and create decently-paid jobs across the country.

Harriet Lamb, CEO of Ashden said: “We are shocked that in the same week the UN has warned it would be political and economic madness to invest in fossil fuels, the UK government has decided to do just that as the strategy includes the issuing of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea.

“The UK government needs to learn its ‘3 Rs’ – Rapid transition away from fossil fuels, more Renewables and major Retrofits. The UK should be diversifying supply by concentrating all efforts into quick and cheap renewable energies.

“But this strategy will be meaningless if we fritter away that energy once we get it. That is why the government needs to fully prioritise energy efficiency measures, alongside the welcome measures on heat pumps, that turn cold houses into cosy homes, and help hard-pressed families save on their energy bills.

“We must invest now in a national campaign to retrofit the UK’s cold and draughty housing stock, including the specialist skills needed to carry out the work. This will boost local businesses, create new jobs, and support the government’s net-zero and levelling-up targets.”

Photo: Installing a ground source heat pump – one of the essential activities that must happen at speed for the UK to have energy security. Credit: Kensa Heat Pumps

Today’s UK Energy Strategy is in stark contrast to the German strategy, announced yesterday, which focused on accelerating green energy expansion. The German package envisages green energy accounting for 80% of the power mix in Europe’s biggest economy by 2030, up from about 40% now and a previous target of 65%. The legislation includes a new clause acknowledging that the use of renewables is in the interests of public security.

Back councils and innovators to get the job done

Local authorities can lead this revolution – they are trusted by residents, already working to boost health and local economies, and well connected to key stakeholders such as small businesses, colleges and community organisations. Government should give councils the powers and funds to take action.

This would help authorities work with innovative frontline organisations such as 2021 Ashden Award Winner Carbon Co-Op, a Manchester-based community benefit society running retrofit training for building contractors as part of its deep retrofit service, People Powered Retrofit. The organisation offers a range of courses and sessions as part of a holistic approach to tackling the shortfall of skilled tradespeople for retrofit, and also stimulates demand through household energy assessments and connecting participating builders with opportunities.

Photo: Carbon Co-op helps people and communities in Greater Manchester to make the radical reductions in home carbon emissions necessary to avoid runaway climate change. Dedicated government support to retrofitting and increasing workforce skills would be a quick win to energy security. Credit: Carbon Co-op

Fellow Ashden Award winner Kensa Group has rapidly installed thousands of ground source heat pumps using its shared ground loops system, which reduce the overall system cost and make the technology viable at sites with limited outdoor space. Its customers are currently social housing retrofit and new-build developments, but there is significant potential for the technology and new business model to be used more widely in future to decarbonise the UK’s heating.

Finally, to realise the proven benefits of greener homes, the Government should follow the advice of its own Committee on Climate Change and enshrine long-term standards, like the Zero Carbon Homes Standard, in law.

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