Making our homes more energy efficient is critical to tackling climate change, says Rebecca Pow MP
The Conservative MP said that improving the efficiencies of homes, businesses and local buildings was one of the best ways to tackle climate change, and urged the government to invest more in new energy efficient technologies.
Speaking at a fringe event sponsored by Calor Gas, the Taunton Deane MP welcomed the drop in emissions from households over the past few decades as consumers increasingly embrace new technologies such as low-energy lighting and solar panels, but warned that some areas were being left behind.
She said: "In the rural areas we are not doing quite so well on the energy efficiency of our homes, in the old stock there is a lot of draughty houses, a lot are not on the gas grid. There is a great deal of work to do in that area.
"The Government is making big strides on its clean growth strategy, and it has a commitment now to tackle fuel poverty in many more homes going forward, and of course rural houses do need to become part of that.
"Looking on a slightly wider scale, on the main ways we can tackle this issue is to a:) make energy use more efficient...b:) is to waste less energy and c:) that will obviously have a knock-on effect in our fuel bills."
Ms Pow, who sits on the APPG on Climate Change, urged the government to use the clean growth strategy to invest and encourage in companies developing innovative technologies for making homes more energy efficient.
She said: "It would help us green our homes, help us use less energy, help us waste less energy and in the end help us pay less for our energy. So it’s a win, win, win as far as I am concerned."
But Calor Gas' Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs Paul Blacklock highlighted the challenges of dealing with more hands-on heat policy that means having to make changes directly in customers’ homes.
"Certainly when you look at energy efficiency there has been a policy failure over the last 15-20 years in terms of the energy efficiency of homes in the countryside. We have had virtually no government support for rural housing in terms of improving energy efficiency."
Mr Blacklock added that the Big 12 energy companies, looking to hit government targets, have focused on urban areas because it was the most cost-efficient strategy.
"Companies have not been chasing out across fields to do cottages", he said.
"We lobbied hard to have a rural element to that target, and there is a rural sub target, but rural is defined by settlements up to 10,000 people, so that is market towns, not villages.
He added: "Rural targets have been largely achieved by going nowhere near any fields."
And he took aim at the government's decision to use Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) to help regulate both the rental and sales market, saying they have led to counter-intuitive outcomes.
"The problem is they are not an energy performance certificate. The lead rating on them, the energy efficient rating, measures pound notes, it doesn’t measure kilowatts", he said.
"At the moment, and this is the danger of absolute targets, you have a target in the private rented sector where in order to rent your property you have to have a minimum EPC rating of an E, and there are now a lot of rural landlords who are actively taking out low carbon heating and putting heating oil in because that will actually improve their EPC rating.
He added: "So you’ve got a situation where government policy, which is supposed to improve energy efficiency, is actually putting carbon emissions up."
Instead, Mr Blacklock urged the government to be upfront with homeowners about the impacts of heating reforms or risk a "real danger of consumer rejection."
"You need to bring people with you, because this is going to cost money. That is not to say it shouldn’t be done. It has to be done because of the climate change targets.
"But don’t kid people or consumers that this is a free lunch, because it’s not. . Consumers needs option which are affordable, they need options that will fit into how they prefer to heat their homes."