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‘Build, build, build’ not enough - the UK must ‘retrofit, refurb, renovate’, says energy industry

30 June 2020

The Association for Decentralised Energy (The ADE) welcomes the announcement made today by the Prime Minister calling for an ‘infrastructure revolution’ which will boost the UK economy, help reskill and level up across the country.  

However, it is not enough to just ‘build, build, build’ to really put the country into the green economic recovery it urgently needs. By 2050, UK families will still be living in 80% of the housing stock that is standing today- already old and in need of refurbishment and retrofitting in order to meet net zero targets.

Unlike other stimulus options, the jobs created by a national buildings renovation programme would be distributed across the entire country, with opportunity positively correlated to areas most in need of stimulus. Research from the EEIG showed that a focus on building retrofit can employ approximately 150,000 people to 2030, with 40,000 jobs created in the next two years. 

Lucy Symons-Jones, Head of External Affairs at the ADE said; 

Investing in a national buildings renovation programme will support local jobs and SMEs right now and will be an important part of the UK’s green economic recovery. The £9.2bn promised in the Conservative Party manifesto will support the engineers and installers who are ready to deliver an immediate national building retrofit programme. Without this funding, these local skilled workers face redundancy. 

The UK currently has some of the worst performing buildings in Europe. This leaves cold and draughty homes that contribute to high energy bills, fuel poverty and adverse health outcomes. The ADE says that, investing in energy efficiency would deliver cost savings and reduce fuel poverty. 

Liz Warren, Director at SE2, an ADE member business, said; 

Comprehensive retrofit can help provide people with warm and healthy homes, which in turn can reduce some of the health inequalities that have been brought into sharp focus by the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrofit and energy efficiency are inherently local and can create meaningful and lasting jobs in every community.

The ADE says that without the investment in a national buildings renovation programme, the UK risks falling further behind in its Carbon budgets; as set out in the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) progress report to Parliament. To reach net zero, the CCC estimate 545,000 lofts required insulating in 2019. Just 27,000 were. 200,000 cavity walls required insulation, but just 41,000 were. 90,000 was the target for solid walls, just 11,000 were. Reaching 5%, 21%, and 12%, respectively, of annual targets set for these key measures seriously endangers the UK net zero target, now enshrined in law. 

Sandy Abrahams, Founding Partner at Lux Nova, an ADE member business said: 

Investment into the energy efficiency and retrofit space ticks so many boxes, helping to meet emission reduction goals, addressing fuel poverty and creating local jobs. Energy efficiency must be treated as a national infrastructure priority and treated as an essential investment strategy for the UK Government.

Without energy efficiency investment, low carbon heat options are not viable without considerable strain on both the energy system and the wallets of households. The innovative low carbon heat networks of the future and heat pumps are optimised through efficient buildings. Buildings that retain heat also open exciting opportunities for households to earn money from flexing their energy use, as they can be pre-heated and remain comfortable for extended periods. 

Claire Addison, Head of Regulation at Flexitricity, an ADE member company, said:

A national buildings renovation programme with energy flexibility at its heart could transform Britain’s homes into domestic power plants. Smart flexing of energy efficient houses and flats will provide greener, warmer homes, while balancing the grid using the most affordable alternative to electricity network expansion.


About the ADE

The Association for Decentralised Energy is setting the vision of a local, efficient, low carbon energy system which enables energy users to make the choices which work for them. The Association has more than 160 members active across a range of technologies and markets and is widely recognised as one of the leading industry bodies in the sustainable energy sector.

Related ADE publications

 Laying the foundations for net zero: Putting households at the heart of the energy transition

For further information please contact:

Lucy Symons-Jones
Head of External Affairs
Tel: +44 (0)7 906 445 775

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