IPPR: Decarbonising homes in North England could deliver £3.85bn boost

Green home upgrades in the region could create hundreds of thousands of jobs and drive down emissions, think tank estimates

Delivering green upgrades to homes across the North of England could create almost 190,000 new jobs both in the region and beyond, while providing a multi-billion pound boost to the economy each year and bolstering the UK’s efforts to meet its net zero emissions goal, fresh research by IPPR suggests.

A study released today by the think tank argues retrofitting millions of Northern homes with energy efficiency measures, such as insulation or replacing gas boilers with heat pumps and district heating networks, could play a key role in meeting the UK’s net zero target, while also boosting jobs and growth.

The report comes within days of the government’s unveiling of its long-awaited 10 point green recovery plan, which campaigners hope will include fresh support for domestic energy efficiency programmes.

A concerted green home upgrade drive in the region could create 77,000 local jobs, in addition to 110,000 across the wider UK supply chain, the IPPR claims, providing a major boost to both economic recovery efforts and the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. Moreover, the report estimates such efforts could deliver a £3.85bn gross value added boost each year for the North.

Tackling the region’s draughty, inefficient housing stock would also be a major win in the battle against fuel poverty, with around 731,500 fuel-poor homes estimated to be in the North, IPPR added. According to the study, of the 6.8 million homes in the region, almost a quarter were built before 1919, and 44 per cent before 1944, underscoring the high proportion of ageing housing in the North.

IPPR North is therefore calling for a rapid retrofit of all social housing – which accounts for 1.27 million homes in the region – within a decade, estimating the investment required at £2.36bn per year, around half of which should be funded by the government, it said.

“Decarbonisation isn’t an option- it’s vital for our region, our country and our planet,” said Marcus Johns, research fellow at IPPR North. “Not only will it make a difference to the world we live in, but it could also help us to create high quality jobs in a healthier, greener, economically-just North.

“As we approach an incredibly tough winter, during which time people living in fuel poverty and non-decent homes will be disproportionately affected- the time for government invest in a green stimulus into the North is now,” added Johns. “But make no mistake, failing to do so will result in further ‘levelling down’ of northern housing.”

It comes amid growing concern about the impact of strict Covid-19 lockdown measures on vulnerable people living in draughty homes this winter, who may struggle to pay for heating over the coming months when they are mostly confined to their homes all day.

Meanwhile, the government’s flagship £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme, which is designed to offer householder vouchers to help pay for energy efficiency upgrades, appears to be facing teething issues just weeks after launch, in part due to a lack of skilled tradespeople signing up to rollout the measures.

A report last week by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) warned that, without government action, changes in behaviour brought about by the coronavirus pandemic would turbocharge the UK housing emissions crisis due to more people working from home.

RIBA has called for amendments to stamp duty so that more energy efficient homes accrue less tax, stronger green standards for new homes are introduced, and more funding is made available for energy efficiency upgrades over the next decade, among other demands.

“When it comes to energy efficiency, our homes are fundamentally below the mark,” said RIBA president Alan Jones. “Our housing stock sits shamefully behind most European neighbours, and this will only be made more obvious by the changes in working habits brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. We need urgent government action – a National Retrofit Strategy – with front-loaded spending that would double as a fiscal stimulus and a new stamp duty policy to encourage homeowners to think twice about opting for sub-standard homes.

Responding to RIBA’s report, the government said driving down household emissions was an important part of meeting the UK’s 2050 net zero target.

“The £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme will help install energy efficiency upgrades in more than 600,000 homes, we are driving £640 million a year into improving the energy efficiency for low income households and will be publishing a Heat and Building Strategy to put the UK’s buildings on the course for net zero,” the government spokesperson said.

Read more: businessgreen.com