In the wake of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s speech on the planned changes to the government’s net zero policy, it's imperative that we reflect on the broader context of our journey towards a sustainable future.
The key target of achieving a net-zero economy by 2050 is a legally binding commitment that should be unaffected by the ebb and flow of political tides. Our belief is resolute: the sooner we embark on the path to decarbonise our economy, particularly within the housing sector, the more cost-effective and transformative the outcome will be.
These adjustments significantly increase the challenge of meeting the UK’s legally mandated emissions targets and may delay further those housing providers that have not yet started their decarbonisation journey. The wider effects are curtailing job opportunities in the sector in which there is a serious skills shortage already, compromising energy savings, and prolonging high energy costs for tenants.
At NetZero Collective, our approach to planning with clients has always been centred on their personal net-zero targets, many of which are set to be achieved well before the 2050 deadline. We understand that proactive planning and strategic investments are essential components of any successful decarbonisation endeavour.
For landlords now contemplating a delay in their decarbonisation plans following the government announcement, it’s crucial to recognise the potential repercussions. The United Kingdom currently possesses some of Europe’s coldest, most energy-inefficient homes, underscoring the significance of implementing a nationwide retrofit programme without delay.
While it’s positive news that the grants to help households with the costs of replacing their gas boilers with heat pumps have been increased, we must note that our housing stock remains far from where it needs to be in terms of energy efficiency.
Some have been pinning their hopes on hydrogen as a viable alternative – but numerous studies have concluded that hydrogen is unsuitable for home heating and it’s significantly less energy-efficient compared to electric heating alternatives like heat pumps.
As we anticipate another challenging winter for many households, people will continue to grapple with the harsh realities of heating their homes and maintaining comfortable living conditions.
Working in partnership with councils on their retrofit journey, we frequently see tenants benefiting financially from thanks to solar panels, battery storage, and air-source heat pumps installed in their homes. These measures deliver long-term benefits that improve people’s homes, making them fit for the future while potentially saving them money on energy bills.
Beyond the immediate financial considerations, decarbonising homes presents landlords with a unique opportunity to positively impact their tenants and the local economy. These investments create local high-skilled jobs within the construction sector and enhance energy efficiency which can reduce tenants’ fuel bills and improving their overall quality of life.
So, as political landscapes shift and policy priorities evolve, the pragmatic course of action remains clear: to continue investing in decarbonisation where feasible and work collaboratively towards the shared goal of achieving the net-zero 2050 targets.
While the government’s stance on decarbonisation may fluctuate, our commitment to a sustainable future remains steadfast. Collective action from the housing sector today will pave the way for a more environmentally responsible and economically viable tomorrow.
Together with low-carbon energy specialists and academic research partners including the University of Southampton, NetZero Collective is supporting landlords across the UK to produce evidence-based decarbonisation plans, aligned to PAS2035 and PAS2038.