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Energy efficiency remains priority for housebuilders

While Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, may have announced a u-turn on Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) plans in September, we continue to see developers leading the eco charge, most recently with the launch of the Zero Bills Home.

This joint venture between Bellway Homes and Octopus Energy will see purchasers of new-build properties be able to live with no energy bills for a guaranteed five years - an estimated saving of £1,800 a year.

While sceptics might view the promotion as just another incentive by developers, given we have just heard that energy bills will rise once again come January, the scheme certainly seems to offer more than some former incentives, such as a new kitchen or a landscaped garden.


This Government appears to have nailed its colours to a mast that says sustainability is someone else's problem, so it wasn't surprising to see it not being a focus of the recent Autumn Statement.

Many in the housing sector, much like the car industry, however, had too much invested and were too far down the eco road to halt their plans following Sunak’s September announcement and it’s probably a good thing they haven’t.

Having seen first-hand Bellway’s experimental state of the art eco home, the 'Energy House 2' facility at the University of Salford, I have no doubt the Zero Bills Homes will make clever use of the latest green technology. 

Maintain momentum

In Energy House 2, for example, there was the capability to resell any excess energy generated from the solar panels on the roof of the property, or through the electric car charge, all managed cleverly through an app.

Bellway is planning to bring three Zero Bills Homes to market by the end of the year at its Victoria Gate development in Stafford, with a further 250 planned in Bedfordshire for 2024.

While Sunak might have backtracked, it is vital we maintain momentum around energy efficiency, especially since plans could be reinstated if - or when - a new Government comes in.

A recent study from Lloyds Banking Group - The Housing Stocktake 2023 - reported that over four in 10 (42%) of landlords have now cancelled plans to invest in energy efficiency measures since Sunak’s u-turn, with over half (53%) saying they are less likely to invest in energy efficient changes in the future.

The report also sheds light on current concerns and attitudes among homeowners regarding energy efficiency measures. Its findings show that while nearly six in 10 homeowners think it’s important to make their property ‘net zero ready’ by 2035, over two-thirds - 69% - have not taken any action to make improvements in the last five years.

Cost was cited as the biggest barrier, with just one in five - 20% - of homeowners able to pay for the steps needed to ensure their home is ‘net zero ready’ by 2035. Other barriers for change include not knowing where to start or the inconvenience and hassle of building work.

Warmer and cheaper to run

Encouragingly, homeowners who had carried out work were positive about its effect. Almost three quarters - 73% - of homeowners who had undertaken retrofit work said their installation had performed at least as well as expected, with half - 50%-  stating the upgrades have performed even better than expected. Just over eight in ten - 81%-  would recommend retrofit works to friends or family, claiming the main benefits are that their homes are now warmer and cheaper to run.

The recent news that energy bills will rise on average by 5% in January may well spark interest in energy efficiency measures once again, and let’s hope it does, with housing one of the highest carbon-emitting sectors in the UK, it’s important we don't become complacent.

Government discussions on energy efficiency may have quietened temporarily, but I suspect it will not be long before the noise gets louder once more.


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