Future-Proofing Tomorrow’s Housing Against Future Shock
We must not compromise on safety as we become more reliant on electricity to achieve net zero.
The path to a net zero UK requires fundamental changes to our homes and how we use energy. Yet in our increasingly electric world, the critical importance of electrical safety is rarely acknowledged in strategies for our low carbon future.
Electrical Safety First has produced a report that addresses this: Future Homes: Electrical Safety in the Net Zero Home. Divided into a review of four primary areas ─ housing infrastructure, electric vehicles (EVs), product safety, and growing the installer base ─ the report considers some of the future home’s key technologies, with recommendations to enhance electrical safety.
Given their contribution to greenhouse gases, much of the move to net zero focuses on housing and transport. All new homes in England and Wales must provide low carbon heating from 2025 (Scotland’s requirement is a year earlier, in 2024). Net zero homes will also be highly insulated and potentially offer on-site renewable electricity generation and various smart technologies, with some providing EV home-charging points. Consequently, electricity will play a key role in new builds. However, as the UK has the oldest housing in Europe – there are approximately 27 million homes, with around 85% heated by gas ─ retro-fitting existing homes is a bigger challenge.
But whether new build or retrofit, the deployment of technologies not in common use in the UK introduces inherent safety risks, being unfamiliar to consumers and installers. The safety of our homes is also vitally important as we increasingly live and work there. One pandemic ‘legacy’ is increased hybrid and home-based working. Establishing a home office will encourage the mainstreaming of the smart home and whole-house integration of the internet of things.
Around 38 million cars in the UK must also be replaced by ultra-low emission vehicles, to meet climate change targets. Usually ─ if possible ─ people want an EV home charging point installed and we discovered that a lack of accessible charging points creates risky behaviour. Our research found 74% of those who charged an EV via a household domestic socket, often daisy-chaining leads and increasing the risk of electric shock or fire, blamed a lack of access to public charging points – a particular issue for flats and high-density housing.
A safe and effective route to net zero also demands public engagement, incentives, and education, and our experts will be a crucial part of that conversation.
To achieve net zero requires appropriately qualified workers. Yet there is already a skills shortage, with an estimated additional 12,500–15,000 electricians required by 2024. Expanding the numbers of trained, certified firms and installers, in traditional and low carbon technologies ─ now ─ is essential if the UK is to achieve climate change targets. So our report also recommends the Government introduce a policy framework providing industry with long-term certainty of demand and encouraging investment in upskilling.
A safe and effective route to net zero also demands public engagement, incentives, and education, and our experts will be a crucial part of that conversation. Because, in the future home, our mission ─ to ensure that everyone in the UK can use electricity safely ─ is more important than ever.
Electrical Safety First is the UK charity dedicated to preventing deaths, injuries, and fires, caused by electricity.
This article was published in The Path to Net Zero, a special report to mark Net Zero Week 2022, with contributions from Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Alex Burghart MP and Kerry McCarthy MP. Read more here.
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