Home insulation cuts hardship, creates jobs fast
With 4 million households now in fuel poverty, is switching public funds from the winter fuel payment to lagging the loft the answer, as the Audit Commission argues today?
Drilling down into today’s Government report on fuel poverty, householders interviewed for the study say there are two reasons why they were unable to keep their main living room warm enough:
- COST – nearly 30% of occupiers said that cost was a reason, up 11 percentage points from 2003, showing the effect that rising energy prices have had on perceptions; but also
- POOR INSULATION – half said it was not possible to heat the room to a comfortable standard. This marks a sharp fall from over 60% last year, and is likely to be due to improvements in insulation and efficiency measures in dwellings over the last couple of years.
So home insulation is cutting into fuel poverty.
The TUC has argued for a Kirklees-style, council-led, national insulation programme for the 10 million ill-insulated homes. The £5bn cost of the programme – rolling it out at £500m a year – would create an additional 20,000 jobs. Furthermore, seven million homes require solid wall insulation. A modest national energy loan fund reaching £1bn over seven years, providing for interest free loans to householders, repayable when the home is sold, would enable 300,000 householders to install solid wall insulation. This would create another 5,000 jobs a year.
Our model approach was backed by a call from the Committee of Climate Change two weeks ago for, “A street by street neighbourhood approach led by national Government, with a delivery role for local government in partnership with energy companies.”
According to the Audit Commission, only 12% of people receiving the payments – worth up to £400 a year – are classed as being in fuel poverty. But, for Macmillan Cancer Support, “Scrapping the winter fuel payment would be disastrous and a massive failing to those in fuel poverty who so desperately need it.” The National Pensioners’ Convention says the best way of getting money to those who need it most may be pay it universally and use the tax system to claw it back.
Even so, far more public investment is called for in domestic energy efficiency. As Sir Nicholas Stern said last Spring, one of the most cost-efficient ways to combine fast economic stimulus with green initiatives is a major programme of home insulation.