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Warm and green homes, not warm words

Warm and green homes, not warm words Photo: © Ecos Trust

Politicians in government, whatever their party, can’t seem to take their eyes off big shiny energy infrastructure − whether for fracking, renewable energy or new nuclear. But when it comes to saving energy there has been much less governmental enthusiasm.

CPRE’s new research, Nick Clack blogabout achieving affordable low carbon energy for our homes, makes it abundantly clear that the next and future governments must discover new zeal for massively reducing the energy demand from our homes.

Here’s how the different parties’ manifesto promises measure up against what our research suggests is needed:

   Existing homes  New homes
 conservative logo british flag 60x48 Insulate 1 million more homes by 2020. No commitments on low carbon, low energy new homes
 green party logo 60x66 Free nationwide retrofit insulation programme to insulate 9 million homes in total and take at least 2 million homes out of fuel poverty, aiming for the Passive House ultra low-energy standard by 2020; all privately rented homes to meet Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) standard of Band C by 2025; part of a new Green National Infrastructure programme; continue a fully funded Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. Require all new homes to be built to the Passive House standard
 labour party logo 60x741 Upgrade at least 5 million homes over ten years and establish energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority; in the next Parliament: 1 million interest free loans for energy home improvements; 200,000 low-income homes made “warm” each year; privately rented homes must meet EPC standard of Band C by 2027, making a further 3 million homes “warm”. Commitment to a “genuine” zero carbon homes definition and opposed to an indefinite exemption of small sites
 liberal democrats logo 60x712 Make saving energy a top infrastructure priority; pass a new Green Buildings Act to improve the energy efficiency of at least 4 million homes by 2020 including all social, private rented and fuel-poor homes to reach EPC Band C by 2027, incentives for other households and a long-term ambition for every home to reach at least Band C by 2035. Remove exemptions in the zero carbon standard for new homes and steadily increase the standard
 ukip logo 60x60 No commitments to reduce carbon emissions and energy use. No commitments on low carbon, low energy new homes


1 In its main manifesto and additional Green Plan
2 In its main manifesto and additional environmental manifesto

As you might expect, the manifesto pledges lack a lot of detail. This is particularly important when trying to figure out the level of ambition being set out and what the promises might mean in practice, compared with what is needed. There are also few definitions and comparable terms making direct comparisons between the parties difficult.

From the information provided, the Green Party’s promises appear to be the most ambitious and well-rounded. The Liberal Democrats’ proposals also seem ambitious with no obvious gaps, and Labour’s pledges show some ambition. The Conservative’s pledge on the number of homes to be insulated seems modest by comparison and is not linked to any standard, and there’s nothing on improving new home standards. UKIP’s promises both on improving existing homes and tightening standards for new housing are simply non-existent.

So how do these manifesto pledges compare with the modelling in our new research? The numbers of homes to be improved are higher in the manifestos − one million homes over five years for the Conservatives and, over the same period, four million for the Lib Dems and nine million for the Green Party. It’s five million homes over 10 years for Labour. Our research assumed 325,000 major retrofits over 5 years or 650,000 over 10 years.

I believe one of the main reasons for this difference is down to what improvements are being referred to for each home. Our modelling is based on major “whole house” retrofits comprising wall insulation, roof insulation, floor insulation, heating upgrades, improved glazing, improved doors and draught proofing. The manifesto numbers are likely to be based on a greater number of less-comprehensive improvements. This illustrates the importance of the numbers being allied to a particular standard or outcome − whether a Passive House standard or an EPC standard.

Whichever numbers and standards are chosen by the next government, it’s clear that it will need to apply rocket boosters to the improvement programme to get anywhere near what’s needed. The current rate of improvement is paltry. Unless this changes we won’t meet our climate change commitments, reduce energy bills in the long term nor create as many new jobs. And we’ll also have to hand over very large areas of the countryside for new infrastructure and biomass crops.

Find out more

View the SlideShare from our latest Warm and Green report on energy efficiency in rural communities

Download the Warm and Green report

Read Shaun Spiers' blog on Energy efficiency: how the countryside is losing out


Whichever numbers and standards are chosen by the next government, it’s clear that it will need to apply rocket boosters to the improvement programme to get anywhere near what’s needed.

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