U.K. Underestimating Cost of Making Homes Climate-Friendly

The U.K. government has “significantly underestimated” how much it will cost to decarbonize heating in British homes, a touchstone of its net zero promise.

The simple step of insulating Britain’s drafty homes is essential before gas boilers can be replaced with low carbon technology like heat pumps. The cost of improving energy efficiency could be as much as 18,000 pounds ($24,971) a household, according to a lawmaker report. That’s about five times the current U.K. government estimates.

“We consider the government has significantly underestimated how much decarbonizing our homes will cost, and it needs to get a grip on this now, before it is too late,” the Environmental Audit Committee said in a report published Monday. “Energy efficiency is an important precursor to low carbon heating.”

Boris Johnson’s government is struggling to figure out how it will spread the cost of moving homes away from gas heating. A cost that is ultimately borne by consumers or helped with subsidies.

The government’s indecision over whether to put the extra costs on consumers or risk net zero ambitions has delayed a planned strategy for curbing carbon emissions in heating and buildings until at least May.

Failing to tackle energy efficiency of homes, which account for 20% of all the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, risks jeopardizing the target of effectively zeroing out pollution by 2050.

“There is no way of getting to net zero without tackling emissions from homes,” said Jess Ralston, an analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

There are an estimated 19 million homes in Britain that need improvement and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy puts the cost of this between 35 and 65 billion pounds to 2035. This figure doesn’t take into account the extra costs for more difficult to insulate homes and doesn’t include the cost of a heat pump.

“The U.K. has a strong track record in improving the energy performance of its homes,” Beis said in a statement. “We ​are committed to go​ing further and faster.”

The committee’s role is to examine how policies and programs of government departments stack up against sustainable development and environmental protection targets.

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