The Nature of the Challenge
Our homes currently consume about 30% of the UK’s energy and produce 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. 80% of that energy is used for space and hot water heating, mostly using gas. As well as emitting carbon dioxide, burning gas produces nitrogen oxides that are a major contributor to poor air quality in urban areas.
To meet the 2050 targets in the Climate Change Act, we must make domestic heating zero-carbon.
New standards are being prepared for new homes, but the UK has an old housing stock in poor condition, and the replacement rate is low. 80% of the homes we will be using in 2050 have already been built. We cannot just decarbonise the electricity grid or build our way out of trouble. We must retrofit 27 million existing homes; reducing heating demand as much as possible and decarbonising what is left.
Incremental improvements will not take us to zero carbon. Partial solutions will lock in technologies that will have to be expensively replaced on the journey to zero carbon. We need an integrated ‘whole house’ approach that fixes fabric and utilities at the same time. Deep retrofit that takes existing buildings all the way to zero carbon in one smooth set of interventions. Pilot projects have shown that this is possible for a wide range of building types, but solutions are not being deployed at scale.
A national programme will need collaboration between government, industry, housing providers and civil society, bringing many benefits. It will cut carbon emissions and reduce fuel bills. It will reduce fuel poverty, reduce winter deaths from cold and poor-quality housing, and relieve pressure on the NHS. It will support the Clean Growth Strategy and provide export opportunities for UK business.