December 11, 2023

Labour has attacked the Conservatives over the speed of government efforts to upgrade Britain’s draughty housing stock, as analysis showed a leading household energy efficiency initiative was proceeding at what the party called a “glacial pace”.

Just 65,000 homes have been upgraded under the government’s Energy Company Obligation (Eco) scheme since it was relaunched in April last year, according to analysis of statistics released by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ).

Labour said this figure was in sharp contrast with the 1.5 million lofts and cavity walls insulated annually before it lost power in 2010.

MPs and campaigners have repeatedly urged the government to accelerate the improvement of homes, against the backdrop of the energy and climate crises. Household gas and electricity bills began to soar in late 2021 and the price rises were exacerbated by a spike in wholesale gas costs after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Claire Coutinho, the energy secretary, angered MPs this week when she said that new oil and gas production “wouldn’t necessarily bring energy bills down” in announcing legislation to allow annual licensing rounds for new North Sea projects.

Labour’s Alan Whitehead, the shadow energy security minister, said: “It was a stunning admission from this government that, during the worst energy bills crisis in generations, their flagship king’s speech energy policy won’t even take a penny off energy bills.

“Now we find that the Conservatives are failing to take any meaningful action to upgrade Britain’s homes – despite the fact that energy efficiency is one of the best ways to cut bills for good.

“The Conservatives are so out of touch that they have given up trying to bring down energy bills for British families.”

Labour has pledged to devise a “warm homes plan” to give devolved administrations the power and the resources to bring every home in their area up to EPC standard C or higher within a decade.

The Eco scheme was first launched in 2013 with the aim of cutting household energy bills by improving household insulation. In the first four years of the scheme, almost 1.7m homes were upgraded.

The initiative was relaunched last year, offering support for households to move towards greener heating options, new boilers and cavity wall and loft insulation.

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A separate scheme, Great British Insulation, was launched in March, designed to help about 300,000 households across the country with the cost of installing new home insulation, and will save consumers about £300 to £400 a year on their bills.

However, critics have said the scheme would take 190 years to upgrade the energy efficiency of the UK’s leaky housing stock, and 300 years to meet the government’s own targets to reduce fuel poverty.

The DESNZ has been approached for comment.

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