Insulation is seen as key to tackling fuel poverty and cutting CO2 in draughty homes
Installation of home insulation has plummeted since Warm Front Scheme was scrapped in 2013, which may have led to millions of tonnes of additional CO2 emissions
A now-defunct national scheme which helped to support the rollout of home insulation could have saved households an additional £3.7bn on their energy bills while avoiding millions of tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere if it had not been scrapped in 2013, the Labour Party has claimed.
Analysis of official insulation data by Labour found that between 2008 and 2013, when the previous Warm Front Scheme was in operation, there were an average of 1.2 million loft insulations and 700,000 cavity wall insulations added each year in England.
However, after the New Labour-era scheme was cancelled six years’ ago, installation of home energy efficiency measures plummeted, with just 214,000 loft insulations and 142,000 cavity wall insulations added between 2013 and 2017, it said.
As a result, Labour estimated 4.9 million households lost an average of £755 each on their energy bills through less energy efficient housing between 2013 and 2017. It also calculated that the move resulted in additional greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 8.6 million extra cars on the road each year.
It said its calculations were based on financial and carbon saving estimates for household insulation measures provided by the Energy Savings Trust, using insulation installation data from the House of Commons library.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn slammed the decision to scrap the Warm Front Scheme in 2013 – which was taken by the then-Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government – as a “disaster”.
“They cost millions of people hundreds of pounds and damaged our environment,” he said, arguing Labour’s plans to unleash a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ through mass installation of solar panels, home insulation, and expanding renewables capacity would help to reverse the trend.
Corbyn also said a Labour government would seek to insulate four million homes, which would save households £270 a year on average. “Social justice and climate justice are inseparable,” he said. “Labour will tackle inequality and environmental destruction together.”
Launched by the previous Labour government in 2000, the Warm Front Scheme was designed to help vulnerable households such as those in fuel poverty benefit from energy efficiency improvements such as home heating upgrades and insulation measures. The scheme saw 2.3 million homes receive assistance.
Following the 2010 Spending Review, however, funding for the Scheme was gradually cut from £345m in 2010/11 down to £100m in 2012/13, before the Coalition government scrapped the scheme altogether, replacing it with the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and Green Deal schemes.
But the Green Deal scheme, which offered loans for energy efficiency installations, was also scrapped in 2015, leaving sources of funding for energy efficiency upgrades harder to come by for households and businesses. The ECO scheme has continued to fund upgrades for fuel poor households, but critics maintain the level of overall funding for domestic energy efficiency measures is much lower than it was under previous schemes.
The government recently faced fierce criticism from MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, who said the UK “stands no chance” of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 without urgent action to address energy efficiency standards of buildings and households.
The Committee said investment in measures to tackle fuel poverty and boost building energy efficiency had shrunk over the past decade, with the rate of installations under government schemes dropping by 95 per cent since 2012.
BEIS and the Liberal Democrats were both considering requests for comment at the time of going to press.
However, last month the government announced a flurry of policies aimed at boosting energy efficiency, including plans to reshape lending practices, homeowner incentives, and data collection to encourage lenders, landlords, and building occupants to embrace energy saving solutions.
It also recently unveiled a new £5m fund aimed at spurring innovation in green mortgages to incentivise homeowners to improve the energy efficiency rating of their dwelling.