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Why the energy efficiency taskforce is being scrapped

  • by JW

“Our commitment to energy efficiency has not changed one iota” [Treasury]


Unfortunately, the debate around insulating homes has become somewhat politicised, with the Sun congratulating the government for handing out an extra £6bn for insulation grants to cut £450 off energy bills in autumn last year, and yet the previous autumn had implied that the same from the opposition was a £6billion home insulation splurge, when Labour pledged to borrow billions and insulate every home in Britain — to the delight of eco activists.

This evening, on the other hand, the Mail was very even-handed when reporting that shadow net-zero secretary Miliband criticised Sunak as energy efficiency taskforce is scrapped.

This is the story covered earlier in the day by the BBC, that Rishi Sunak scraps the home energy efficiency taskforce:

A taskforce to speed up home insulation and boiler upgrades has been disbanded, the BBC can reveal. The group – which included the chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt and other leading experts – was only launched in March. But it appears to be a casualty of Rishi Sunak’s decision to scrap energy efficiency regulations for landlords in an overhaul of green policies. Members were informed in a letter, seen by the BBC, that it was being wound up.

Energy efficiency minister Lord Callanan told the group its work would be “streamlined” into ongoing government activity A spokesperson for the Energy Security and Net Zero department said: “We would like to thank the Energy Efficiency Taskforce for its work in supporting our ambition to reduce total UK energy demand by 15% from 2021 levels by 2030. We have invested £6.6bn in energy efficiency upgrades this Parliament and will continue to support families in making their homes more efficient, helping them to cut bills while also achieving net zero in a pragmatic, proportionate and realistic way.”

But former Conservative MP Laura Sandys, who sat on the taskforce, said she was “disappointed” by the decision to disband it and “confused” about the government’s intentions on the cost of living. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, she said energy efficiency must be the “first priority to reduce citizens’ costs” and “improve energy security”.

A source close to the energy taskforce told the BBC: “The cheapest energy you can have is the stuff you don’t use. This taskforce was meant to help that – if government is shelving it because recommendations are too challenging for them, then it runs contrary to what the PM said about helping ordinary people and being honest about difficult choices.”

Labour’s shadow net zero secretary Ed Miliband said: “Every family is paying the price in higher energy bills due to 13 years of Tory failure on insulating homes. After Rishi Sunak’s track record as chancellor with the disastrous Green Homes Grant, this is another short-sighted decision that will cost families money.” Labour says it would upgrade 19 million of the UK’s most poorly-insulated homes over a decade if it gets into power.

The Green Homes Grant was a voucher scheme for insulating homes which was axed in 2021 after being criticised as wasteful and inefficient.

The UK is often described as having some of the oldest and least energy efficient housing in Europe. In 2020, BBC research found 12 million UK homes were rated D or below on their Energy Performance Certificates, which means they do not meet long-term energy efficiency targets. This year a BBC investigation found six out of 10 recently inspected UK rental homes failed to meet a proposed new standard for energy efficiency.

Sky news gives some insights into why the decision was made to scrap the government taskforce aimed at saving energy and lowering bills:

A Treasury source said: “Our commitment to energy efficiency has not changed one iota” They added the decision to close the taskforce had been taken by the Department for Energy and Net Zero, created in February this year.

The taskforce was chaired by Lord Callanan and the former NatWest Group chief executive Alison Rose who resigned from the bank in July in a row over the closure of Nigel Farage’s account. It was intended to stimulate private sector investment and identify barriers in the market.

It comes after the prime minister made a speech this week rowing back on parts of the green agenda pursued by his predecessors – with targets relaxed for phasing out petrol and diesel cars, upgrading boilers and for landlords to make their properties energy efficient.