UK Homes UNFIT For the Challenges of Climate Change

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It has been estimated that the residential housing sector is accountable for one fifth of all UK CO2 emissions. The majority of this comes from heating homes. However, the way in which a residential home is constructed, insulated, heated, ventilated and the type of fuel used can add to their carbon emissions.


Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) s were introduced in 2008 with the aim to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Despite this, many UK homes are still being ranked poorly. Statistics show that 30% of homes in England and Wales are still carrying E, F or G EPC ratings.


Recent research that analysed EPC certificates highlighted the limitation of current grant schemes and the need for more radical intervention in order to improve energy efficiency within homes.


According to government data specifically, between the years of 2004 and 2017, CO2 emissions from residential properties fell by 26%. Unfortunately, from the years of 2014 and 2020, emissions have risen again by 9%. As a result, the UK’s residential housing sector was responsible for emitting 67.7 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (MTCO2e) in 2020. This is over one fifth of all UK CO2 emissions.


As mentioned previously, the majority (70%) of this comes from heating properties. This issue tends to be associated with older homes. Did you know that 30% of pre-war build properties in England and Wales still have an EPC rating of E or below? This figure increases to 47% for homes built pre-1900.


Many people want to improve a homes EPC rating however the payback on energy improvements remain unappealing. The estimated cost of upgrading a home with an EPC rating of D, is £6,472. With an average annual cost saving of £179, it would take 36 years to pay back the initial investment according to the English Housing Survey.


As a result of this, the impact on value is limited when homeowners upgrade a home’s EPC rating.


Lucian Cook, head of residential research at a national estate agent, said: “Existing regulation provides a framework to require landlords to ensure their stock meets the increasing minimum standards for energy efficiency in the rented sector, however, it will place a significant liability on both private and affordable landlord that is likely to result in significant restructuring of their portfolios.


“Decarbonising heating sources needs to go alongside improving the energy efficiency of our homes, but as things stand, energy cost savings and small changes to home values are currently not enough of an incentive for many homeowners who won’t see enough of a return on investment compared to other home improvements, to warrant the expenditure”


“With the government likely to impose EPC targets for lenders, the cost and terms on which mortgage finance can be obtained have the potential to change the equation for those with a mortgage. However, even this will not go far enough. More than 10 million homes are owned outright – increasing by 1.6 million in just the past 10 years. These homes are typically older, less energy efficient and change hands frequently.


“This may mean discounts and surcharges on property-specific taxes such as stamp duty and council tax have to be considered by policymakers. These have the potential to increase the ‘green premium’ and ‘brown discount’ of housing, providing a greater incentive for owners to invest in energy efficiency improvements. However, they are likely to be highly politically sensitive, requiring, among other things, concessions for heritage properties.”

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