Against a backdrop of soaring energy prices and an urgent need to transition to net zero, a Commons committee inquiry into the changes needed to deliver energy efficient homes across the UK couldn’t come at a more pressing time.
The UK has some of the worst insulated housing stock in Europe.
Statistics reveal that, on average, UK homes are losing three degrees of heat in just five hours. In comparison, German homes lost only one degree, and Norwegian homes a mere 0.9 degrees.
In January, Cllr Paula Widdowson, a member of the LGA’s Local Infrastructure and Net Zero Board, represented the LGA at an evidence session held by the Commons’ Energy Security and Net Zero Committee.
Also giving evidence were Dan Norris, Metro Mayor for the West of England, and Fay Holland, Senior Energy Policy Adviser at Energy Systems Catapult, an independent research and technology organisation.
Committee Chair Angus Brendan MacNeil MP emphasised the importance of prioritising households grappling with high heating costs as we head through a bitter winter.
The LGA reiterated its case for a locally led approach to net zero, showcasing successful partnerships and initiatives across regions like the West Midlands, Cornwall, and Newcastle, and groundbreaking innovations such as the Eden Project, where a three-mile-deep borehole can supply 35,000 homes with energy.
Cllr Widdowson shed light on the challenges faced by her own council, City of York, where innovative projects like a solar farm on a former waste site are stymied by inadequate grid connections. The local network operator estimates a cost of more than £9 million simply to connect the proposed solar farm to the grid – something that still would not happen until 2034.
During the session, we emphasised that warm homes mean healthier, happier people and a more productive economy, highlighting the broader benefits of retrofitting homes.
The urgency of climate action is apparent, with more than 300 councils declaring climate emergencies, and local government uniquely positioned to facilitate inclusive and trustworthy changes.
However, a short-term focus and poorly designed initiatives at the national level hinder local authorities’ efforts.
The current approach is fragmented, with 60 per cent of UK emissions still lacking a tangible plan to deal with them, and councils grappling with an overly complicated multi-scheme approach, hindering progress.
With local government in England facing a £4 billion funding gap, proper financing is vital; but fostering a more effective partnership between central and local government and supporting local climate action would be more efficient and offer significant cost savings compared to national approaches.
This has been demonstrated in a report from Innovate UK and consultants PwC, which highlighted that a national approach to hitting net zero would cost £195 billion with a £444 billion return, while a locally led strategy would cost £58 billion and yield an £825 billion return.
The challenge now lies in bridging the gap between central and local government, ensuring each council can harness its strengths to accelerate climate action.
With fewer than 10 spending reviews until 2050, the time to initiate a collaborative process is now.
We will continue to work with the committee and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to best support householders to properly insulate their homes and in the transition to sustainable heating sources.
Find out more about the LGA’s parliamentary work.