We’re ready, we’re steady, we’re go…. It is time to put energy efficiency first.

This column was featured in the September 2019 edition of Insulate Magazine that you can read here – to receive every edition direct to you inbox every month, be sure to subscribe for free.

With turbulent, ever-changing times at Westminster in the last months, weeks and recent days, a General Election appears to be in the offing and it’s time to prepare and switch into election campaign mode. MIMA and the EEIG are already steady and ready to go when the whistle blows. In fact, we are out of the blocks before the whistle to try, as far as we can, to influence the party manifestos before they are set in stone. Most of them have been drafted many moons ago.

So, what are we asking for? This does not differ much from the last general election in 2017, that all political parties pledge to commit to making energy efficiency an infrastructure investment priority. However, this time around we have a firm but realistic financial ask – to allocate at least £1 billion of additional public investment every year to 2035 to energy efficiency in homes, prioritising the fuel poorMay sound a hefty sum but in the great scheme of things this is a drop in the ocean and is far outweighed by the benefits – the generation of strong economic returns, creation of thousands of high-quality jobs and reduction in NHS costs.

Despite many political distractions, the issue of energy efficiency has been barely off the radar. In July, we saw the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) blueprint for setting out how the UK could viably build a net zero greenhouse gas emission economy by 2050, stressing “that widespread deployment of energy efficiency measures across the UK’s building stock will be a key plank of any credible and cost-effective strategy to meeting net zero”.

This was swiftly followed by the pithy and persuasive Business and Energy select committee’s report “Energy efficiency: building towards net zero” which strongly spelled out that the evidence is overwhelming on how crucial energy efficiency investment is for meeting climate obligations, eradicating fuel poverty and lowering bills. The evidence and research is not new, it is not radical, it is well-known. 

Let’s also remember the Conservative Environment Network manifesto which sensibly reflects the messages of the EEIG and makes a commitment to “Environmental Net Gain – a new legal requirement for all development, leaving the environment in a better state. Upgrade old homes – £1bn a year to upgrade our leaky housing stock and end £9.5bn a year in wasted energy.”.

What is clear is that the issues of climate change and net-zero are way higher up the political agenda nowadays. It appears that more and more people, more constituents are actively interested – tweaking their everyday lives with paper straws or walking to work or school instead of driving. Actually thinking about their daily carbon footprint. Most importantly is that these issues are not party-specific like many other election issues. It is not a question of the ‘if’ they commit to net-zero but the ‘how’ and the ‘how much’ to throw at it.

Commitment to net-zero is cross-party and spans current standing MPs and candidates in the wings of all parties – whether they be Labour, SNP, DUP, Liberal Democrat, Conservative or any other party. Election candidates ignore net-zero at their peril and it may cost them votes. The EEIG already has a solid support base of cross-party MPs who are all committed to making energy efficiency an infrastructure priority and what is important is that, whether our support base comes from current or future MPs, they are all wedded to delivering a Buildings Energy Infrastructure Programme.

The message is positive, strong and no-nonsense. The UK has enshrined in law the historic target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To meet it, a major reduction in energy demand will be required. The UK can cost-effectively reduce energy demand in homes by a quarter, which is equivalent to the output of six nuclear power stations the size of Hinkley Point C. This could save the average household £270 every year. There is technical potential to go even further and halve energy demand in homes. To achieve these savings, a future Government must invest.

In simple terms, the potential is huge. A tremendous public investment opportunity exists. It is the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions, helps everyone to reduce their energy bills and is essential for fulfilling the legal duty to end fuel poverty by 2030, removing its unnecessary burden on the NHS. It would crowd in at least three times as much private investment from households and the supply chain, support tens of thousands of jobs and boost the economy in every part of the country. What’s there no to like when a political party candidate is looking for each and every vote.

If the candidates, the parties and the current/future Government are receptive to the election messages and campaign activities from the EEIG and its members “No other infrastructure investment can do so much for so many. It is time to put energy efficiency first.” We will be on our way to delivering net-zero and making our homes warm and healthy.

Sarah Kostense-Winterton is Executive Director of MIMA, the Mineral Wool Insulation Manufacturers Association and co-founder and Chair of the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group (EEIG).

MIMA represents four of the leading mineral wool insulation companies in the UK – Isover Saint-Gobain, Knauf Insulation, ROCKWOOL and Superglass, the industry trade body for non-combustible, breathable glass and stone wool insulation.

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