27 Mar A Green Approach For Future-Proofing Your Home’s Energy Bills
The UK has been hit hard by an energy crisis that is forcing people to choose (in the worst case scenario) between heating or food. It is a dire situation and as the UK experiences its first recession since 2008, there doesn’t appear to be much hope of things changing for the better any time soon.
However, it’s not just the economy and global conflict that are causing high energy bills – our own homes can display a significant energy efficiency gap via insufficient insulation. This often means that the heat and power in our homes is not being conserved as well as it could be. By making simple but effective changes to our home, a process known as retrofitting, there are real wins to be made in future proofing our energy bills. From upgrading our windows and doors to installing better insulation throughout our homes, we can attempt to fight back against the energy and cost-of-living crises, together with climate change.
Why have energy bills risen in the UK?
With everyone feeling the pinch as the energy bills have risen exponentially, it’s important to understand why we are all being put under such financial pressure. Although nobody wants higher energy bills, context can make it more understandable, not that it makes the tough situation any easier.
According to Professor Paul de Leeuw, director of the energy transition institute at Robert Gordon University, 44% of electricity in the UK is generated by gas-fired power stations while the European average is 22%, with renewables and nuclear power more prominent on the continent.
With the cost of gas shooting up in price by up to 400% in some markets, it’s clear why the UK has suffered. While there are plans for the UK to commit to cleaner, greener energy, the government’s attempts haven’t happened quickly enough and now it’s hitting people hard.
Energy bills are only half the battle
We don’t have to sit back and just accept insanely high energy bills, there are ways we can take control of our homes, especially as many are lacking adequate insulation. By insulating your home you could save hundreds of pounds on your annual bill in a multitude of ways; from large installations in floors and cavity walls to small fixes such as draft-proofing windows and doors or blocking chimneys.
The age of a property is the single-biggest factor in the energy efficiency of a home, finds the Office for National Statistics, with 46% of homes in England built between 1930 and 1982. And with fewer than half of homes in England and Wales with an EPC rating of C or better, something must be done.
Why is retrofitting not more prominent?
If retrofitting is the solution, we have to wonder why it’s not a more regular occurrence across the country. However, while there is an appetite for the retrofitting of homes, there are skills shortages in many green jobs that are preventing projects from getting started.
With little funding initiatives from the government to help turn the tide, and with millions of energy-inefficient homes to retrofit, it hasn’t been high on its agenda. That is despite protests from groups such as Insulate Britain and plenty of research to showcase the benefits and need for retrofitting to protect not only vulnerable people from the volatile climate changes but everyone.
The cost of retrofitting isn’t negligible, and one study estimates a ‘deep retrofit’ will average around £69,000. In November 2022 the government announced it would issue £15,000 grants to help towards the costs of insulating homes, which may see an increase in the uptake of retrofitting.
Tackling a green skills emergency
More than funding, there is a serious lack of green skills and jobs to fulfil the retrofitting requirements in the UK. We need a retrofitting workforce to enable more affordable energy bills for all, through improved insulation across all homes in the country. Energy bills will come down when homes aren’t losing huge portions of heat in the winter and are better protected from the increasingly hot and humid summers we have.
Investing in green infrastructure is a significant solution to solving the UK’s energy crisis, cost-of-living crisis and helping to reduce emissions and protect our planet. But there is a lot of work to be done, and green skills are going to be at the heart of any positive action.
As it stands, the UK is in critical need of more EV charging points, heat pumps and solar panels, with over a decade’s worth of installation work already necessary. But without the green skills workers capable of installing them, we will continue to fall behind the net carbon zero 2030 target set by the government.
Retrofitting is an essential home upgrade that can shave hundreds if not thousands off your heating and energy bills throughout the year depending on the size of your property. But thinking green extends beyond the retrofitting revolution and we must learn to stop relying on gas and oil for better, renewable alternatives. Switching to renewable energy avoids reliance on fossil fuels while also saving you money in the process.
Solar panels are perhaps the most well-known alternative home energy solution as they have been around for decades. They are increasing in popularity as climate change becomes one of the biggest issues in modern society. With the ability to store surplus energy, and EV charging solutions, solar panels are a vital tool in lowering our home energy bills.
Ground source and air source heat pumps are a sustainable alternative to gas and oil that use the environment to generate heat. A ground source heat pump draws heat from the ground, can store energy to be sold to the grid and reduce energy bills.
Air source heat pumps work similarly to a refrigerator, capturing heat from the air to warm a liquid refrigerant, converting it into gas before compressing it back into a liquid which generates heat energy.
Bringing green skills to the fore
We must bring as many green skills to the fore as possible to ensure we live in a net zero society by the government’s target date of 2030. As things stand we need more skilled workers in the right jobs to ensure demand can be met and we all enjoy the benefits of lower energy bills, greater insulation and a lower climate impact.