Aeriel view of typical UK homes and streets

‘Gaps in net-zero plans are putting decarbonisation at risk’

It’s too complicated for people to adapt their homes for net zero and things go wrong too often, says a coalition of consumer and industry groups in an open letter to the Prime Minister.

Citizens Advice, Which?, the Federation of Master Builders and Aldersgate Group are urging the government to work with them to address the obstacles currently faced by consumers. They say lessons must be learned from previous energy efficiency schemes or the UK’s ability to decarbonise its 29 million homes is at risk.

The coalition says the government can maintain public trust and support and realise the benefits of emissions cuts, safer and warmer homes and innovation and jobs by making sure the process is as easy as possible for the public to engage with and understand.

Right now the process of installing low-carbon heating, upgrading insulation or installing smart technologies is time-consuming, confusing and stressful for consumers. Researching and choosing the right technology, finding a reputable installer and having the work completed demands huge amounts of knowledge, time and effort.

The process of making adaptations is often beset by problems, including poor installation, technologies not working as expected, and difficulties fixing things when they go wrong.

The coalition is also urging the government to avoid the mistakes of past energy efficiency schemes. It says these mistakes left people struggling with damp and mould due to poorly installed insulation while others suffered damage to their homes, leaving them with long-term problems that were expensive, disruptive and distressing to resolve.

Despite recent improvements, current consumer protections are not ready for the pace and scale of the work needed to improve millions of UK homes.

The coalition is calling on the government to take the opportunity to fix these gaps through its upcoming Net Zero Strategy and put in place a long-term strategy to help households overcome the barriers to adapting their homes for the net-zero transition.

It says people need information: from installing low-carbon heating to upgrading insulation, it’s confusing to know what steps to take and what technologies to install. More accessible and unbiased information is needed to help make the right changes to their homes.

Consumer protection must be fit for purpose. If protections don’t keep up with the pace of change, the door will be opened to scammers and rogue traders. Previous energy efficiency schemes have been marred by these problems.

Many people will need financial support to make changes to their homes. There needs to be a comprehensive long-term policy framework that provides certainty for businesses and consumers, which offers financial support such as predictable and well-advertised grants, low-cost loans and financing.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, says: “Our evidence is clear. Right now, making green changes to homes is too confusing and too often things go wrong for those trying to do the right thing. The public are behind the net-zero transition, but they need the right information and tools, particularly when it comes to adapting their home.”

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