Editor: Last month, the government axed the £1.5bn Green Homes Grant scheme, having reached just 10% of the 600,000 homes chancellor Rishi Sunak promised would be improved (‘Anger as Green Homes Grant is scrapped’).
Ending the grants, which offered householders up to £10,000 to help them retrofit their homes, seems like a backwards step with COP26 fast approaching, and will only make meeting the government’s legally binding 2050 net zero target harder.
The emissions produced by heating Britain’s homes are responsible for around 20% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, with draughty homes that leak heat and energy mostly to blame.
Most of the 29 million existing homes across the UK must be made low-carbon, low-energy and resilient to climate change, according to the Committee on Climate Change, underlining the scale of the challenge facing the residential property industry.
It is estimated that the cost of retrofitting a home typically stands at around £30,000, which means the UK’s retrofitting programme is potentially an £870bn challenge in the making.
With vast sums of money having been spent on keeping the economy on life support throughout lockdown, the chancellor is unlikely to be signing large cheques any time soon, but the industry should not sit around waiting for government handouts to do its part. By using data in a more intelligent way, we can reduce the time and cost of retrofitting existing homes.
At Etopia Homes, we widely use sensor technology that allows us to collect real-time data on the energy performance of a home. This data is then fed into a home’s integrated computer, which automatically optimises performance. For example, if a home is using more heat than required, the technology will automatically adjust heating levels to ensure energy isn’t being wasted.
We’re exploring ways to deploy the same technology we use in our new-build homes – which enables them to achieve up to zero carbon emissions – in the retrofitting market.
Meanwhile, the government should help homeowners feel the financial benefits of going green. One idea policymakers should explore is lowering council tax bands for the UK’s most energy-efficient homes.
Homeowners could save hundreds of pounds not only in reduced energy costs but also in a lower tax bill that creates a powerful incentive for change.
Joseph Daniels, chief executive and founder, Etopia Group