“It is all very well giving assistance with bills, but a long-term solution – insulating houses – is surely the way forward” said Conservative sponsoring MP and EEIG supporter, Antoinette Sandbach opening the recent debate in Parliament on Energy Efficiency and the Clean Growth Strategy.
Sandbach continued by setting out a range of potential policy levers, and highlighting that bills are £500 lower today than they would have been without energy efficiency improvements, yet “there is still more to do”. She did not fail to point out that there has been an 80 per cent reduction in energy efficiency improvement measures between 2012 and 2015. Never a truer word spoken.
This two and a half hour debate was a long time in the waiting – with debates on energy efficiency being few and far between – also providing the first actual chance to debate the Clean Growth Strategy launched in October last year. This was a valuable opportunity to put on the public record the cross-party commitment to coordinated action on boosting the energy efficiency of our homes to deliver social, economic and environment opportunities for all.
The policy wish list – the cross-party MP’s central ask “to designate energy efficiency measures as infrastructure spending” – with the clear economic and social benefits, not surprisingly reflected the EEIG’s messages, with all of those speaking at the debate supportive of the coalition’s campaign. As Sandbach stated energy efficiency spending is closer to capital than revenue expenditure, and such investments free-up energy capacity, delivering multiple economic, environmental, and energy security benefits for the UK.
“Why invest in the big plant if we can roll out energy efficiency measures across the country, as part of an infrastructure project?” Sandbach boldly proclaimed. “Energy efficiency measures provide a public service: they insulate consumers—literally—against the volatility of energy markets. Likewise, they provide health and wellbeing benefits, by enabling consumers to heat buildings more effectively, and they have the knock-on consequences of reducing our carbon emissions and contributing towards our overall aim of clean, green growth.”
Minister, Claire Perry did not disappoint with her enthusiastic response saying, “the case that was made for demand-side as well as supply-side infrastructure investments is powerful” also committing to meet with the National Infrastructure Commission in the coming months.
“There is a huge amount more to do,” inferred Perry. “We have heard lots of sensible ideas today, many of which are extremely attractive and that we want to take away. All of us want to get the costs and consumption of energy down, reduce carbon emissions, make our homes warmer, and make the transition to low-carbon energy less risky. This is not an either/or question; in order to meet our carbon targets, and to create a housing stock that is fit for the future, we absolutely need to do this.”
However, the Minister’s one word of caution that making energy efficiency an infrastructure priority “does not automatically turn on a new funding tap” must be ignored at our peril.
“There is no packet of money under the Chancellor’s desk marked ‘Infrastructure’, so this all has to be put through a similar hopper,” Perry warned. “Nevertheless, the point about energy efficiency is excellent; energy efficiency is not only a strategic imperative, but an economic imperative. If we improve energy efficiency, we reduce people’s bills, create value, and create opportunities and investment for new forms of technology.”
What was clear during this debate – or dare I say discussion given the MPs support across the political divide – is that the politicians agree with one another and there is immense (and very welcome) support from the government minister too. We have challenges ahead but the Clean Growth Strategy represents one of the most significant milestones – the path ahead – to support the reset and transformation of energy efficiency policy, of how it is approached. This, supported by the recommendations, amongst others, of this week’s Green Finance Taskforce report, the Climate Change Committee and, with fingers firmly crossed, of the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendations due in the spring/early summer.
It is imperative that EEIG and its members focus on supporting Perry and the Government on how to deliver the jigsaw of potential policy measures and to ensure HM Treasury becomes sold on the new way of framing energy efficiency. The momentum we have achieved throughout 2017 must be maintained lest we let this important issue slip back into the traffic jam of the new policy queue. As Perry rightly said “This is not an either/or question; in order to meet our carbon targets, and to create a housing stock that is fit for the future, we absolutely need to do this.”
With this in mind, the EEIG has a packed strategy for 2018 with focus on doing exactly this. The EEIG remains a broad church which represents those who are committed to achieving change and delivering good energy efficiency policy and quality housing “fit for the future”. We are not about specific products, businesses or organisations but committed to achieving the EEIG’s goals. We are widening and growing the membership so come and join us at the next meeting on 11 April!
Sarah Kostense-Winterton is Executive Director of MIMA, the Mineral Wool Insulation Manufacturers Association and founder of the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group.
For further details of the EEIG and if you would like to join, please contact EEIG’s political advocacy and support, Alasdair MacEwen at email@example.com