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Joe Bradbury looks at some of the key findings for social housing from this seminal report on net Zero

The Skidmore review is the result of one of the largest Net Zero engagement projects in the UK.

Chris Skidmore MP and his team at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) gathered almost 1,800 pieces of written evidence and spoke with hundreds of industry and civil society leaders in just a few months.

The ensuing paper provides a thorough examination of how the UK's Net Zero aim by 2050 might be met in an economically beneficial manner.

The cheapest energy is the energy we do not use, and by strengthening home insulation and heating systems, we will have warmer, cleaner homes going forward.

According to new research for the Review, switching to renewable alternatives could also save an average household anything from between £400-£6,000 by 2050.

The cheapest energy is the energy we do not use

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Digital editor of Housing Association magazine

Consider a Net Zero Homes standard now

All homes should ideally be held to a Net Zero Homes Standard as the industry standard.

Homes that have taken the necessary efforts to be as efficient as possible can save their occupants money on their bills and be more financially desirable to future buyers by combining fabric and low carbon heating techniques.

By establishing a Net Zero Homes Standard, it will be possible to assure that over time, an increasing number of homes will meet this standard and an increasing number of occupants will live in homes that are both financially and physically beneficial.

The government should be praised for recent energy efficiency efforts, such as demand reduction targeting, but we must go further and faster if we wish to make a meaningful impact on our carbon footprint as a society. The Review recommends that:

  • The government provides all consultations and work to mandate the Future Homes Standard by 2025 and EPC C for all homes sold by 2033. A Net Zero Homes Standard should be explored in the future, because homes that have taken the necessary steps to be as efficient as possible through a combination of fabric and low-carbon heating techniques will be more financially desirable to live in, buy, and sell.
  • The government undertakes an urgent 10-year objective to make heat pumps a commonplace technology in the UK and begin preparing to phase out new and replacement gas boilers by 2033 at the latest. Ensuring that we accelerate the deployment of heat pumps and low-carbon heating sources, finally ending our reliance on fossil fuels in our homes.
  • To give clarity for consumers, the government must change EPC ratings as soon as possible in order to develop a clearer, more accessible Net Zero Performance Certificate (NZPC) for families.

Expand support schemes for low-income consumers

Energy efficiency measures and low-carbon heating can have substantial upfront expenses, and running costs can also be an issue, especially in energy-inefficient homes.

Following the Report, the government is continuing the Boiler Upgrade Scheme until 2028 and Skidmore also calls for it to investigate if payment levels should be further enhanced to account for inflationary pressures before being gradually reduced.

This should take place alongside greater efforts to raise awareness of government assistance.

Support for those who cannot afford the upfront costs of improving energy efficiency and switching to low-carbon heating systems should be maintained and expanded, specifically through the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG), the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF), and other existing low-income household schemes.

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) in particular, which offers payments of up to £5,000–£6,000 for heat pumps, has received favourable feedback from the public.

Around 10,000 vouchers have been distributed so far this year, which whilst great, falls far short of the trajectory required to accomplish the government's aim of installing 600,000 heat pumps by 2028; especially when you consider that it is not the only policy required to attain that number.

In summary

A new economic narrative regarding Net Zero's advantages permeates the entire paper.

In particular, for major players who act quickly and profit from the change, Net Zero is positioned as "the economic opportunity of the 21st century."

It is shown that Net Zero is not simply compatible with but also a gateway to the UK's growth. 

It was also exciting to see ideas for speeding up the deployment of renewable energy sources, strengthening the role of local governments, and securing investor and corporate trust through uniform policies and financing.

However, if we are to stand any chance of achieving some of the goals highlighted within the review, the UK government must increase its level of ambition and action FAST… here’s hoping!

Joe Bradbury is digital editor of Housing Association magazine