Households concerned about climate change but government needs incentives
Up to 45% of homeowners are put off from making their homes more energy efficient due to the cost involved, according to a new study by property experts, Cornerstone Tax.
The findings, released to coincide with Earth Day last week, found that homeowners had looked into making the necessary renovations to make their homes greener, but found it too expensive without government support.
The study also revealed that 22% of homeowners looking into making their homes more energy efficient found it impossible because of planning restrictions.
The Earth Day worldwide event is intended to increase awareness of the environment and highlight ways to protect the planet, mostly through recycling and by reducing people’s overall carbon footprint.
Cornerstone Tax said it was “extremely important” to make the changes and reduce the carbon footprint in people’s homes.
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A recent study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 76% of Brits were concerned about climate change, yet the UK is plagued by a lack of energy efficient homes.
Moreover, residential properties account for a fifth of the UK’s CO2 emissions, prompting the government to pledge that by 2035 every home should have an EPC rating of ‘C’ or above as part of its long-term plan to tackle climate change.
The Cornerstone Tax report also found that 36% of homeowners thought that making their home more energy efficient was a priority for them but that 23% had not taken any steps to do so.
In response to the findings, the company’s business development director, James Morley, acknowledged that the initial cost of making green renovations “are still too high for many homeowners across the UK” and urged the government to provide more incentives.
He said: “It’s clear to me that the government will need to go further in incentivising these types of developments if they wish to see more people carrying them out.”
According to Morley, people undeterred by the initial cost of renovation had a number of options when considering energy efficient renovations, including loft insulation, solid wall insulation, ground source heat pumps and double-glazing.
Such improvements could save each household an estimated £890 every year in reduced energy costs and balance out the price of implementation.
Morley nonetheless said the solution would be to buy a new-build property as it provided the benefits of an eco-friendly home “without the extra expense or the hassle”, although he conceded that many homeowners were attached to their current properties and wanted to stay there.
Speaking to Mortgage Introducer, David Hannah (pictured), group chairman of Cornerstone Tax, was asked how the government could incentivise renovation projects as suggested by his colleague.
He said the government “could offer soft loans to householders in the same way they did to businesses during the pandemic”, allowing them to spread the capital cost over several years.
“Whilst the current reduced VAT charges on energy efficiency expenditure are welcome, they do not cover a wide enough range of products and are ultimately only a small help to hard pressed families,” he added.
Regarding criticism of the government’s recent new energy strategy announcement and the accusations that the PM failed to focus more on energy efficiency and insulation, Hannah said Number 10 had missed an opportunity to reduce energy waste.
He said: “This is one important half of the equation - the other being self-generation of power and heat. If we are to move to net zero by 2030 then both sides of this issue need to be addressed in tandem.”
Many experts have suggested removing planning restrictions to boost house building projects, given that there is a shortage of between 300,000 and 340,000 new builds a year.
Hannah, however, cautioned against such moves as they ran the risk of urban proliferation into green areas. “This is a complex dynamic and I would suggest that it is far easier to remove planning restrictions - for example - on grade 2 and 3 listed buildings and conservation areas to enable both energy generation and insulation projects to be undertaken.
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“These older properties are the least energy efficient and yet subject to the highest costs of renovation as well as delays caused by the current planning system.”
Regarding the suggestion that the cost of retrofitting older properties might be too high (estimates suggest it could be as much as £65 billion in England and Wales alone with homeowners expected to fit the bill), he said: “The net gain of reduced carbon emissions by insulating, allowing double glazing, and other energy efficiency and heat/power self-generation measures vastly outweighs the costs in terms of the environment. Again, the government could assist with medium term, in the region of 10-year soft loans to enable these properties to be brought up to modern energy efficiency standards.”
He also dismissed suggestions that consumers would be forced to relegate energy efficiency to the bottom of their concerns, saying it could “sharpen people’s minds and make them more seriously consider their carbon footprint”.
He added: “Ultimately most families will be looking to their heating and lighting bills and trying to explore medium term solutions to improve to increase their energy efficiency.”