Energy bills for families in leakiest homes to surge during winter lockdown, new report warns


WINTER heating costs for families living in the leakiest homes during a coronavirus lockdown would increase to nearly £50 per month more than for those in houses that do not waste as much heat, finds a new report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

The analysis finds that, were the coronavirus lockdown to be continued or re-imposed during winter months, families in cold, leaky homes would face heating bills elevated on average to £124 per month, compared with £76 per month for those in well-insulated homes – a difference of £49 (£48.7) per month.

Jess Ralston, Analyst at ECIU and the report’s author, commented on the findings: “This report is a sobering reminder of both the consequences of past failures to tackle the problem of Britain’s leaky homes and the importance of upcoming policy interventions to start to fix the problem.

“With the Government already set to publish three major documents this year on tackling building efficiency, including further measures in any post-coronavirus recovery package should be a major opportunity.

“The stakes are higher now, with Covid-19 adding to the financial struggles many families in energy-wasteful accommodation already face, increasing their bills still further and pushing some towards fuel poverty.”

The report, Lockdown in Leaky Homes, shows that higher heating costs for more inefficient homes are the norm, with bills for an EPC C-rated home £95 lower for the whole year than the typical winter heating costs of an EPC F-rated property.

In fact, the cost of energy wasted by living in a poorly-insulated home adds more to the typical bill over the course of a year than would be added by extra energy use in a more insulated home in lockdown, the report finds (£629 vs £597).

Although the 2019 Conservative manifesto pledged more than £9 billion to increasing the energy efficiency of buildings across the UK, details on how this would be spent were missing from the 2020 Budget.

At the same time, energy efficiency installation rates have fallen by more than 95% in recent years, leaving the UK ranked worst out of 13 comparable European countries for fuel poverty.

The ECIU report suggests that upgrading properties would deliver specific benefits to UK regions that experience high levels of fuel poverty, such as the North of England, Midlands and South-West, both by improving people’s homes and by creating jobs for tens of thousands of skilled tradespeople, which would be spread across the country thus supporting the recovery.

Paul Massara, a member of the Committee on Fuel Poverty and former CEO Npower, added: “The Government is at serious risk of missing its fuel poverty targets and needs to be urgently looking at major energy efficiency programmes that can simultaneously help reduce regional inequalities, reduce carbon, create jobs and save people money.

“This has to be part of building back better as we seek to kick-start the economy.”

The Energy White Paper, the National Infrastructure Strategy, and the Heat and Buildings strategy are all due to be published during 2020.

The Lockdown in Leaky Homes report is available here