ONS figures show housing decarbonisation progress is “stalling”

energy performance dial
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Updated figures from the Office of National Statistics show dwellings in England and Wales have a median energy efficiency rating in band D.

The Social Market Foundation has responded to the data, which suggests a slowdown in uptake of heat pumps and insulation.

The numbers published show 68% of new Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) registrations in England are still heating with mains gas, with only 12% heating through electricity.

Whilst the gap in median EPC rating between properties in the private rented sector (the worst performing tenure type for energy efficiency) and social housing has reduced, this is because the median efficiency rating of social housing has not changed since last year.

SMF analysis of the ONS figures also noted that percentage of new dwellings using renewable energy (including heat pumps) for central heating has dropped from 0.2% last year to 0.17% this year.

The figures come as government grants to households for installing heat pumps – an essential part of the decarbonising our housing – have been extended in an effort to accelerate the UK’s faltering progress. However, recent SMF research on the barriers to taking up energy efficiency in homes suggested that cost is not the only barrier that needs to be addressed – poor awareness and a lack of trust are also major issues.

In a report to be published in the coming weeks, the SMF will make recommendations for improving the take up of home insulation, including proposals for local authority-run ‘one stop shops’, providing information on how improve energy efficiency, how to access government support and showcasing reliable traders to complete the work. 

Niamh O Regan, Researcher at Social Market Foundation, said:

What’s notable in this year’s release is that progress towards the decarbonisation and electrification of home heat is stalling and, in some cases, going backwards. The percentage of new build homes using renewable heating (including heat pumps) has dropped and the change in the existing stock is barely noticeable. By 2030 the UK is supposed to have reduced its emissions by 68%, and we cannot get there without addressing our heating. Today’s figures show that we are well off track.

Whilst extending the grant for heat pumps is a step in the right direction, the government needs to go further to address consumers’ barriers to uptake – and redouble its commitment to hitting the milestones for achieving net zero 2050, so as to eliminate uncertainty.