The UK performs most poorly overall over 16 European countries, across a range of housing and fuel poverty indicators, according to damning figures released today. In a comparison of 16 European nations, the UK ranks 14th on fuel poverty, with a higher proportion of people who are struggling to pay their energy bills than every other European country assessed except Slovenia and Ireland.
The UK also ranks 12th based on households reporting that their home is in a poor state of repair and comes last based on the proportion of households that say they are unable to afford to adequately heat their homes. Poor levels of insulation see UK homes fall way behind those of comparable European countries like Sweden, Germany and Denmark.
As a result, the UK’s most energy inefficient homes, rated G on an A to G scale, must spend £2,670 each year on energy on average to heat and light their homes.
The research findings also reveal that 8 of the top 10 English Parliamentary constituencies with the most energy inefficient homes are held by Conservative MPs, with 4 represented by Ministers including:
– Rory Stewart MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs
– Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport
– Harriett Baldwin MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury
– Philip Dunne MP, Minister of State for Defence Procurement
Many of the least energy efficient properties in the country are found in rural constituencies, which are predominantly Conservative-held, helping account for this finding. The research also highlights the need for an energy efficiency programme that can reach every part of the UK.
As households begin to turn on their boilers for winter, over 50 leading businesses and energy leaders, representing over 100,000 employees, including Co-operative Energy, the Energy Saving Trust, Kingfisher, Willmott Dixon and Worcester Bosch have called on Government to deploy infrastructure budgets to create a new energy efficiency national infrastructure programme, as part of the upcoming Spending Review on 25 November.
This follows a move in Scotland in August where the five main political parties, including the Scottish Conservatives, committed to outlining plans in their manifestos to improve home energy efficiency through a “national infrastructure project”. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has called on industry and consumer groups to work with the Government to make new, stable policy and build a system that works for the longer term.
Jenny Holland, Head of the Parliamentary Team at the Association for the Conservation of Energy, said: “Of the 26 million households in the UK, four out of five have poor levels of energy efficiency, rated band D or below. As today’s findings clearly show, this places our nation right at the bottom of the European rankings for housing and fuel poverty and represents an energy bill crisis for UK consumers. Ministers must now embrace the opportunity for a national energy efficiency infrastructure programme to address this at the Spending Review in November.”
Director of the Energy Bill Revolution, Ed Matthew, said: “By far the greatest opportunity to cut energy bills is to invest in energy efficiency infrastructure programme for our nation’s leaky homes. Recent research from Frontier Economics shows this would bring an £8.7 billion net economic benefit to the country, comparable to HS2 Phase 1 and Crossrail. This would boost GDP growth, reduce UK reliance on gas imports and help deliver a net increase in employment across the country. It would also help keep energy bills down, reduce health costs and warm up the homes of the fuel poor.”
Commenting on the report, Sophie Neuburg, Friends of the Earth’s Fuel Poverty Campaigner said: “It’s little surprise that the UK is doing so poorly on cold homes. The Government has slashed energy efficiency programmes to the bone leaving vulnerable people to shiver in poorly insulated housing.
“And with ministers undermining increasingly cheap solar power in favour of highly-expensive nuclear, it’s clear that ensuring affordable energy in the future is not a Government priority. Ministers must end the cold homes scandal with a major energy-efficiency programme to create jobs, tackle climate change and ensure people can afford to keep themselves warm in the winter.”
Picture credit: Old houses in old Yardley Village by Elliott Brown via Flickr
Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis
Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.
Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long will my retirement savings last?”
Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.
Tip #1: Focus & Determination
Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.
Tip #2: Minimize Spending
One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!
Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal
You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.
Investing in Clean Energy
One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.
With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.
The Future of Green Biz
As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.
Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.
In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!
What Should We Make of The Clean Growth Strategy?
It was hardly surprising the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was much anticipated by industry and environmentalists. After all, its publication was pushed back a couple of times. But with the document now in the public domain, and the Government having run a consultation on its content, what ultimately should we make of what’s perhaps one of the most important publications to come out of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the past 12 months?
The starting point, inevitably, is to decide what the document is and isn’t. It is, certainly, a lengthy and considered direction-setter – not just for the Government, but for business and industry, and indeed for consumers. While much of the content was favourably received in terms of highlighting ways to ensure clean growth, critics – not unjustifiably – suggested it was long on pages but short on detailed and finite policy commitments, accompanied by clear timeframes for action.
A Strategy, Instead of a Plan
But should we really be surprised? The answer, in all honesty, is probably not really. BEIS ministers had made no secret of the fact they would be publishing a ‘strategy’ as opposed to a ‘plan,’ and that gave every indication the CGS would set a direction of travel and be largely aspirational. The Government had consulted on its content, and will likely respond to the consultation during the course of 2018. And that’s when we might see more defined policy commitments and timeframes from action.
The second criticism one might level at the CGS is that indicated the use of ‘flexibilities’ to achieve targets set in the carbon budgets – essentially using past results to offset more recent failings to keep pace with emissions targets. Claire Perry has since appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee and insisted she would be personally disappointed if the UK used flexibilities to fill the shortfall in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but this is difficult ground for the Government. The Committee on Climate Change was critical of the proposed use of efficiencies, which would somewhat undermine ministers’ good intentions and commitment to clean growth – particularly set against November’s Budget, in which the Chancellor maintained the current carbon price floor (potentially giving a reprieve to coal) and introduced tax changes favourable to North Sea oil producers.
A 12 Month Green Energy Initiative with Real Teeth
But, there is much to appreciate and commend about the CGS. It fits into a 12-month narrative for BEIS ministers, in which they have clearly shown a commitment to clean growth, improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions. Those 12 months have seen the launch of the Industrial Strategy – firstly in Green Paper form, which led to the launch of the Faraday Challenge, and then a White Paper in which clean growth was considered a ‘grand challenge’ for government. Throughout these publications – and indeed again with the CGS – the Government has shown itself to be an advocate of smart systems and demand response, including the development of battery technology.
Electrical Storage Development at Center of Broader Green Energy Push
While the Faraday Challenge is primarily focused on the development of batteries to support the proliferation of electric vehicles (which will support cuts to carbon emissions), it will also drive down technology costs, supporting the deployment of small and utility-scale storage that will fully harness the capability of renewables. Solar and wind made record contributions to UK electricity generation in 2017, and the development of storage capacity will help both reduce consumer costs and support decarbonisation.
The other thing the CGS showed us it that the Government is happy to be a disrupter in the energy market. The headline from the publication was the plans for legislation to empower Ofgem to cap the costs of Standard Variable Tariffs. This had been an aspiration of ministers for months, and there’s little doubt that driving down costs for consumers will be a trend within BEIS policy throughout 2018.
But the Government also seems happy to support disruption in the renewables market, as evidenced by the commitment (in the CGS) to more than half a billion pounds of investment in Pot 2 of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) – where the focus will be on emerging rather than established technologies.
This inevitably prompted ire from some within the industry, particularly proponents of solar, which is making an increasing contribution to the UK’s energy mix. But, again, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Since the subsidy cuts of 2015, ministers have given no indication or cause to think there will be public money afforded to solar development. Including solar within the CfD auction would have been a seismic shift in policy. And while ministers’ insistence in subsidy-free solar as the way forward has been shown to be based on a single project, we should expect that as costs continue to be driven down and solar makes record contributions to electricity generation, investment will follow – and there will ultimately be more subsidy-free solar farms, albeit perhaps not in 2018.
Meanwhile, by promoting emerging technologies like remote island wind, the Government appears to be favouring diversification and that it has a range of resources available to meet consumer demand. Perhaps more prescient than the decision to exclude established renewables from the CfD auction is the subsequent confirmation in the budget that Pot 2 of CfDs will be the last commitment of public money to renewable energy before 2025.
In short, we should view the CGS as a step in the right direction, albeit one the Government should be elaborating on in its consultation response. Its publication, coupled with the advancement this year of the Industrial Strategy indicates ministers are committed to the clean growth agenda. The question is now how the aspirations set out in the CGS – including the development of demand response capacity for the grid, and improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential premises – will be realised.
It’s a step in the right direction. But, inevitably, there’s much more work to do.
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