Government floats Warm Homes, Greener Homes plan

8 March 2010

Plans to green Britain’s 26m existing homes have been unveiled by the Department for Energy and Climate Change under the government’s Warm Homes, Greener Homes strategy.

Building reported that the strategy aims to cut emissions from UK homes by 29% by 2020. Construction News estimated the plans will generate more than £6 billion of work for the industry.

The strategy will be based on a new ‘pay as you save’ scheme, underpinned by legislation, which will allow green loans to be tied to a property, avoiding the upfront cost of greening homes. Instead the charge will be added to the home’s energy bill.

Launching the package, energy and climate change secretary Ed Milliband said: “The Warm Homes, Greener Homes strategy will remove the deterrent of upfront costs and reduce the hassle of the move to greener living. Making homes more energy efficient will help protect people from upward pressure on bills, tackle climate change, and make us less reliant on imported energy”.

The strategy will be implemented in three stages, with plans to insulate six million homes by the end of 2011. All practical lofts and cavity walls should be insulated by 2015 and up to seven million eco-upgrades offered by 2020, in addition to the fitting of all homes with smart meters.

The UK Green Building Council welcomed the move. Paul King, chief executive, said: “The biggest barrier to low-carbon refurbishment - the upfront cost - is set to fall. Pay as you save is a radical scheme, which could trigger a revolution in household refurbishment - creating at least 100,000 new jobs, saving money and conserving energy.”

However, Building reported that the British Property Federation (BPF) reacted angrily to proposals put forward for the private rented sector. Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the BPF, said: “While some target setting from government can be helpful in changing behaviour, the idea that a private rented property will have to meet a minimum level of insulation before it can be rented out is ill thought out.”

The Federation of Master Builders also voiced scepticism. The Federation’s Brian Berry told Construction News: “I think a lot of people will be sceptical about having a debt attached to a property.”

In the wake of chief construction adviser Paul Morrell's exhortations to contractors to offer a retrofit service to house-holders, Construction News asked several firms if they were considering offering services in the Pay as you Save market.

Housebuilder Keepmoat said this week it was interested in the opportunities which would come up, and social housing contractor and services provider Connaught also said it would look at it.

Sunderland-based social housing contractor Gentoo is already working on an Energy Savings Trust trial scheme to deliver upgrades to 50 housing association properties by the end of the financial year. Tenants are offered the improvements in return for higher rents.

“It has been successful and customers have been asking about it. We are thinking of introducing our own pay as you save scheme as a result,” said bid and investment co-ordinator Che Thornton.

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