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UK ‘must insulate 25 million homes’

March 1, 2017

By Paul Homewood




The latest uncritical pap from St Roger of Harrabin:


More than one home every minute will need to be refurbished in the UK between now and 2050, experts say.

The authors of a report to Parliament say 25 million existing homes will not meet the insulation standards required by mid-century.

The UK needs to cut carbon emissions by 80% by then – and a third of those emissions come from heating draughty buildings.

The government said it would devise policies as soon as possible.

But critics say ministers have been far too slow to impose a national programme of home renovation which would save on bills and improve people’s health, comfort and happiness. It would also create thousands of jobs.

Successive governments have been criticised for failing to tackle the UK’s poor housing stock – some of the worst in Europe.


Local authorities have limited cash to insulate council homes, and landlords and owner-occupiers have proved reluctant to invest large sums in disruptive improvements that will save on bills, but take many years to pay off.

The report from a group of leading construction firms – the Green Building Council – says four out of five homes that will be occupied in 2050 have already been built.

That means 25 million homes need refurbishing to the highest standards by 2050 – at a rate of 1.4 homes every minute.

Who pays?

The authors say this huge challenge also offers an unmissable opportunity under the government’s infrastructure agenda. The fiddly business of insulating roofs, walls and floors creates more jobs and has more benefits than any existing infrastructure priority, they maintain.

The question is how to pay. The government’s Green Deal scheme for owner-occupiers collapsed amid a welter of criticism that interest rates for insulation were too high, and that the insulation itself was too much hassle.


The government has failed to produce a replacement solution to stimulate necessary demand for refurbishments amongst owner-occupiers. The Treasury is reluctant to throw public money at improvements that will increase the sale value of private homes.

The report recommends:

  • Setting staged targets for refurbishing buildings
  • Reintroducing the "zero-carbon" standard for buildings from 2020
  • Recognising energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority
  • Setting long-term trajectories for ratcheting up home energy standards
  • Obliging commercial buildings to display the amount of energy they use.

It says the construction industry needs certainty about what it is expected to deliver, and measurement to discover what is already being built. This should stimulate innovation, it says.

Julie Hirigoyen, head of the GBC, told BBC News there was a great prize to be grasped in upgrading building stock: "People will have warmer homes and lower bills; they will live longer, happier lives; we will be able to address climate change and carbon emissions.

"We will also be creating many thousands of jobs and exporting our best skills in innovation.

"Driving up demand for retro-fitting homes is essential for any policy to be a success – the Green Deal told us just offering financial incentives isn’t necessarily the only solution. We need to make it all easy, attractive and affordable.

"The good thing is that the business community is really starting to recognise the opportunity."


New methods

Ms Hirigoyen called for support for innovation amongst builders. The GBC pointed to a firm, q-bot, which insulates people’s floors by sending robots to creep under people’s floorboards and spray them with foam.

The firm’s head, Mathew Holloway, told BBC News: "We have to find new ways of doing things. Normal refurbishment often means literally tearing a home apart.

"That means local authorities having to re-house tenants whilst it’s being done. With our robot, we can seal and insulate wooden floors without hardly touching the inside of the house."


Mr Holloway’s start-up business was funded by the EU and the business department BEIS, but industry experts complain that building insulation research has received a tiny fraction of the sums channelled into glamorous renewables.

In the last 25 years, governments have tended to shy away from the issue. The Labour government made a rule that people extending their properties should be obliged to insulate the rest of their home too.

However, the Coalition government dropped the clause after it was labelled a "conservatory tax" in the media, even though it was not a tax and did not refer to conservatories.

The government is currently focused on bringing down bills through fuel switching – but home energy expert Russell Smith said: "Switching saves on average £25 a year. That’s not much help to a person in fuel poverty. The solution is refurbishing homes, but it’s difficult, so politicians keep putting it on the back burner."

Mr Smith is currently refurbishing Ruth Baber’s home in Wimbledon, south London. He says it has added 10% to the £250,000 total cost, which included major extensions, but will save 80% of energy bills and take about 20 years to recoup.

Ms Baber is downsizing into the house and said: "I’m worried about climate change and I look forward to being able to control the heat in my house better. I’ve done it [the insulation programme] for my grandchildren, for the future."

The government’s task is to persuade another 25 million people to follow her lead.


There are several issues any half objective journalist would have raised:


1) The Green Building Council, (and I am totally guessing here!), represents members who stand to make billions out of this scam.

2) The reason why very few people took up the Green Deal or are interested in insulating their homes is very simple – economics.

Any energy savings are minute in relation to the capital cost, and would not even cover the cost of interest.

Our house is pretty average size, and our heating bill would probably come to about £300 pa. Even full insulation would only save a fraction of this.

The idea that this could justify spending £25000 is risible.

3) Even if the savings did stack up, where would the money come from? Householders don’t have it, and neither does the government.

25 million homes at £25000 each adds up to £625 bn.

4) And if government did fund insulation, how could they justify subsidising private property owners?

5) The claim that thousands of jobs would be created is economic illiteracy. Money spent on insulation is money taken away from other purchases.

6) I notice that Harrabin seems keen to reduce energy bills, and quotes savings of £25 a year from shopping around.

Funny how he does not mention the hundreds of pounds being added to bills by renewable subsidies.


And for what?

According to DECC statistics for 2015, residential emissions of CO2 accounted for only 16% of total UK emissions. Previous analysis suggested that less than two thirds was for heating.

In other words, even if we could halve that figure, we would still only reduce total emissions by about 5%.


I suspect Harrabin will have a long wait if he expects 25 million people to follow dopey Ms Baber’s lead!

  1. A C Osborn permalink
    March 1, 2017 6:15 pm

    Insulating “unsuitable” homes with Cavity Wall Insulation has already caused major damp problems, yet another unintended consequence of a stupid Government and Green Sales Pitch.
    I double glazed and Insulated my house back in the 80s, way before these idiots were talking “Carbon Footprints”, my reasons were two fold saving on energy bills and reduced maintenance costs.
    I made the mistake recently of listening to their advice on Combi Boilers, the biggest Con ever in home heating.
    My old boiler was 25 years old and had gone wrong once due to a flame sensor failure, fixed for about £50.
    The first combi lasted 5 years had 3 major repairs, total cost £450 plus a new boiler.
    Annual costs savings of the Combi over the old boiler = approx 10%.

  2. AlecM permalink
    March 1, 2017 6:17 pm

    A must as we enter the new LIA without the ability, in urban areas, of burning fossil fuels. In rural areas it doesn’t matter so much because the pollution is diluted much more.

  3. March 1, 2017 6:17 pm

    And insulating homes is not all its cracked up to be. I have both roof and cavity insulation and whilst it has improved some areas it has caused cold spots and excessive levels of humidity in most of the house. I have now bought a dehumidifier which has fixed the problem, but I believe this drive for insulation is cocking up the airflow characteristics which are in the original design. Walls and roofs are supposed to ‘breathe’ and the insulation in excess prevents this.

  4. Tim Hammond permalink
    March 1, 2017 6:21 pm

    “Even if the savings did stack up, where would the money come from? Householders don’t have it, and neither does the government.”

    Well no. If householders don’t have it, how could government have it? The government gets all its money from householders (including corporation tax which is paid by employees and customers in lower wages and higher prices).

    • Asmilwho permalink
      March 2, 2017 7:49 am

      The Government can also obtain money by

      — turning on the printing presses

      — borrowing

      • Malcolm permalink
        March 2, 2017 9:27 am

        I see visions of the £5 carrot. Hasn’t quantitative easing not done enough damage? Fiscal incontinence provides a legacy. Somewhere along the line someone pays. Is it not irresponsible to just keep on ‘kicking the can’? The logo on our bank notes should change to I will not promise to pay the bearer on demand…

      • Steve Crook permalink
        March 2, 2017 1:41 pm

        Turning on the printing presses would raise inflation and probably trigger a fall in the value of the £. Raising more debt? Where do the interest payments come from?

        Either way, its people who pay tax who end up paying for any government largesse. Or there are cuts in services.

  5. Ian Magness permalink
    March 1, 2017 6:25 pm

    As ever you’ve hit the nail on the head – it’s just a meaningless scam to make building contractors billions, and it will do precisely zero to change our climate.
    My own experience of this is instructive as, a few years back, our house qualified for free extra insulation under some government scheme or other. So we took advantage – why not? Bear with me – it’s a good tale.
    In practice the contractors employed the lowest common denominator of unskilled workmen who were clearly instructed to do the absolute minimum, which meant missing whole chunks of outside walls where their little ladders wouldn’t reach. In addition, they couldn’t get their heads around insulating our dormer roof space as it would have meant crawling through gaps in angled cross-beams/struts. Oh dear – can’t get your knees dirty! At this, the head contractor came up with a stunning solution – saw away a couple of the cross beams so that the insulation rolls could just be rolled seamlessly across the space. Apparently, my reaction was a joy to behold. Suffice it to say that I chose not to sanction his solution and the roof is still intact. We still, however, have our government house insulation certificate and I am so proud of it. Must save me at least a quid a year.

  6. MrGrimNasty permalink
    March 1, 2017 6:48 pm

    All the ‘low hanging fruit’, i.e. the measures that can pay for themselves within a reasonable time frame have been done. The next stage is internal and external and floor insulation which is immensely disruptive, disfigures buildings to an extent, loses internal space, and most of all is ludicrously expensive i.e. tens of thousands £, and the outlay will never realistically be recouped by the householder in their lifetime. And then perhaps instead of using as much electricity to heat, you need more for air conditioning and dehumidifiers.

    What the country actually needs is cheap reliable electricity, not crackpot green crap.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      March 2, 2017 10:18 am

      “You need more for air conditioning and dehumidifiers”

      A good point, and one which is rarely mentioned. The “Passivhaus” standard which the powers that be seem to be aiming for does not allow ANY opening windows – not even a letter box! This means the house has to incorporate a powered ventilation/heat recovery system, which surprise, surprise needs electricity to operate. So what does the homeowner do when the power goes off on a really hot day? Regardless of whether the insulation stops the house from getting too hot, the occupants need fresh air, or all that lethal CO2 they emit will eventually kill them. And the solar panels on the roof won’t help, as grid tied inverters are required to shut down if they lose the mains reference frequency. Unless you invest in a battery storage system and suitable inverters and switchgear, you will be living in a sealed box, or you’ll have to leave the doors open…

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        March 2, 2017 11:13 am

        Does it have a door that opens, or does it just sit there to be admired?

  7. Robert Jones permalink
    March 1, 2017 7:15 pm

    Mr GrimNasty pungently hits the nail on the head and I can’t better his concise put-down. It is not the business of Government (or for that matter the worryingly-named ‘Green Building Council) to get involved in insulating houses, particularly if this increases my energy bill and exacerbates the problem.

    Roger Harrabin is becoming the equivalent of a ‘rogue state’ because his groundless output appears to be increasing. He is a danger to society.

    On a lighter note I have been looking at comparison sites to weigh up the prospects for moving on to a new electricity supplier at the end of my contract and I was pleased to see a good offer from a supplier promising ‘100% renewable electricity’. What’s that all about then?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      March 1, 2017 11:20 pm

      You only get power when the sun shines and the wind blows?

  8. Graeme No.3 permalink
    March 1, 2017 7:23 pm

    The last thing you need is for the Government to get involved. We had this in Australia and the results was house fires, botched work and 4 deaths among installers. And millions of taxpayers money going to dodgy contactors.
    Many victorian and edwardian houses were designed to be draughty to prevent gas build-up from leaks. The solution is to require all new homes to be insulated, it opens the way for better and cheaper solutions using far less labour intensive methods.

    • Athelstan permalink
      March 1, 2017 10:05 pm

      Ah darn it…………. you beat me to it mate.

      Why can’t people learn…..our Westminster political clusterfuck and the green blob shacked up together – in bed wetters paradise………………. these VERY recent examples involving ruinables et bloody cetera – clearly cited – how many fekkin times!!?

      Dooming our economy to the green menace ordering a financial cataclysm because FoE writin’ climate legislation…………….’n’ RED ED, Chris Huhne, Potato ED and dave, and tony said so………WTF?


      “authors of a report to Parliament”


      Yers means ‘lobbyists’ and the green blob aka Marxist fuckwits – doncha?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 2, 2017 11:17 am

      The question is whether the cost can be justified in newbuilds. In the UK, the alternative to the original zero carbon standard in the actual building was a £30,000 fine to go towards greenergy projects (I think this idea came from Huhne – he of the Zilkha biomass pellets for Drax). It’s a great way to make modest homes even more unaffordable. Now, how many years of energy bill can you pay for £30,000?

  9. HotScot permalink
    March 1, 2017 7:34 pm

    Too bad if you live in a listed building. Insulation can be extraordinarily destructive as the houses were never designed to deal with condensation from modern kitchens and bathrooms.

    Our house still has the original ‘swee’ a metal bar in the chimney to hang pots from for cooking. Needless to say, it’s not used as we live in a smokeless area and can’t use coal for fires or cooking (like we would). However, the house was never designed to have central heating but does. It was installed in 1982 and the original boiler is still functioning perfectly, if not terribly economically. However, there are ongoing problems with dampness because of it.

    And under any conditions, in any house, listed or not, if a house is ‘well insulated’ it needs to be well ventilated, usually with a mechanical ventilation system, ideally with heat recovery. No one ever mentions this as an additional cost when they drone on about covering the UK with a blanket of largely unhealthy insulation.

  10. March 1, 2017 8:10 pm

    To me a “Zero Carbon” house would be uninhabitable unless dependant on Carbon generated subsidies. (We lit upon fire and hence survived.)
    The authors of this report desperatly need education in technical aspects and logical arguement commonly known as Nous.
    As for reporters who publicise this sort of nonsense. Well best not comment!
    Sadly there are politicians who are suckers to this vaguary lobby technique. There is the danger.
    Meanwhile insulate where pragmatic. A good thing. Otherwise be wary of Think Tanks of dubious self interest and watch carefully the intellect of your MP.

  11. David Chesney permalink
    March 1, 2017 8:13 pm

    Can’t we just fill the voids with CO2? We are always being told that it traps heat and we’ve nowhere to put it and it has unbelievably magical properties!

  12. bea permalink
    March 1, 2017 8:14 pm

    “…this scam…”

    “Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do!”

    Flanders and Swann, “The Gas Man Cometh”.

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      March 1, 2017 11:21 pm

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      March 1, 2017 11:22 pm

      Flanders and Swann, “The Gas Man Cometh”.

  13. Mike Williams permalink
    March 1, 2017 8:38 pm

    If you seal up your house with insulation and upgraded windows, you absolutely will need an air exchange system and dehumidifier. These are standard for a modern house in a cold climate like Ottawa (where I live). But even as cold as our winters are, people with older homes (50+ years) without venting for a forced air system won’t do as Harrabin says because their homes can’t handle/remove the trapped moisture.

    fwiw: to give you an idea as to how efficient a well insulated home can be, our furnace failed during an extreme cold spell this year. It couldn’t be replaced till the next day so we had to do without for a night where temperatures were going to go below -25C. Our gas fireplace managed to get the house up to 21C before we shut it off, and 8 hours later the temperature had only dropped 3C (and our home is in need of new windows so it could do even better).

    • Al Shelton permalink
      March 2, 2017 1:03 pm

      Hey! Why not insulate our houses with bags of 100% CO2? If 0.04% in the atmosphere can “trap” heat then surely 100% CO2 bags of CO2 in our attics and walls, along with 100% CO2 between our panes of glass in our all-weather windows windows will reduce our heating bills to nearly zero. ;^D

  14. Nigel S permalink
    March 1, 2017 9:04 pm

    The cute little robot will probably block the sub floor ventilation with its foam leading to rot in the suspended timber ground floor and many times any saving in replacement costs.

    • Bloke down the pub permalink
      March 2, 2017 9:30 am

      And if the area floods, the house will float away.

  15. March 1, 2017 9:31 pm

    Insulating a home may be cost effective since the weather may take a turn for the colder in the next decade, if the sun goes magnetically quiet and enters a solar grand minima. Those periods tend to produce little ice age (LIA) conditions. When I built my house 40 years ago, I used extra insulation and even when the temperature falls to -30 degrees F (-34 degrees C), the house is warm.

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      March 2, 2017 11:49 am

      But the same people who are chasing this white elephant are those who tell us everyday that the World is warming. We live in a temperate climate and yes it can and does change, so what! As to fully insulating a house, it can then become a gas chamber….or is that the Horrobin last solution.

  16. Alan Carlisle permalink
    March 1, 2017 10:49 pm

    Every time I hear something from Harrabin (I’ll bet his nickname at school was “Horrorbin”) I think of G K Chesterton’s lines:

    “You cannot hope to bribe or twist
    (Thank God!) the British journalist.
    But seeing what the man will do
    Unbribed, there’s no occasion to.”

  17. Gerry, England permalink
    March 1, 2017 11:22 pm

    But of course we don’t need to reduce CO2 emissions anyway……

  18. rwoollaston permalink
    March 2, 2017 7:18 am

    I heard ms hirigoyen on the radio yesterday. She sounds like the worst kind of nosey parker social activist. To be added to the Dolores Umbridge hall of fame methinks!

  19. Peter MacFarlane permalink
    March 2, 2017 9:17 am

    The UK “needs” to cut carbon (sic) emissions by blah-blah-blah. No it doesn’t; a bunch of ignorant tossers in parliament passed an asburd law which says that we ought to, but there’s no “need” about it whatever; the law can be repealed quite easily, and should be (any probably will be, in the end).

    Meanwhile the mere fact that he talks about mucking about with one house every minute shows how nonsensical his diatribe is. It’s about on a par with people who say we need to erect four windmills an hour for the next thirty years, or build a new nuclear station every month, or whatever their rubbish is. It’s just verbiage, it has relation whatever to reality.

  20. 3x2 permalink
    March 2, 2017 10:07 am

    The UK needs to cut carbon emissions by 80% by then

    Or, once people realise what these idiots have done, cut politicians by 80%. Without the backing of The EU they will have to stand for election on their own merits.

    Good luck with that.

  21. Kevin Toal permalink
    March 2, 2017 10:22 am

    All well and good, but its a pity based on a (scientificly unsound) theroy that human emmisions of CO2 are responsible for Global warming.. which has never, ever been proved. Scam.

  22. NeilC permalink
    March 2, 2017 11:02 am

    Everything will be OK, because the government seem have an endless pot of money to feed green crap (we pay for windmills and PV to produce UNRELIABLE energy and pay for them NOT TO PRODUCE UNRELIABLE ENERGY).

    It won’t be long before they realise the need for a strong economy is INEXPENSIVE, RELIABLE ENERGY. But hey have to repeal the marxist Cimate Change ACT 2008

    As Kevin Toal says above the green crap is all base on an unproven theory the human emissions of CO2 increases temperatures. Well not in the UK it doesn’t.

    For the last 18 years and 3 months I have been collecting weather data for 28 location geographically spread (covering 95% of the population). THERE IS NO STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN TEMERATURE IN THE UK.

    p.s. Paul, sorry for shouting.

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      March 2, 2017 11:55 am

      I agree, I have already sent a comment to my MP to tell him just how stupid our toy government are. He will not reply, he was a primary school teacher until CCO picked him to be our MP at the last election. We never saw him either before or after!

      • Gerry, England permalink
        March 2, 2017 1:59 pm

        Yes, sounds like my MP who is obviously another Call Me Dave stooge rather than a local person.

  23. andy mckendrick permalink
    March 2, 2017 3:02 pm

    What`s the point of underfloor insulation ,I thought heat travelled upwards and not downwards or have the laws of thermo- dynamics changed since I was at school.

  24. Derek Colman permalink
    March 3, 2017 12:44 am

    My house is poorly insulated. It was built in 1976 but does not meet the 1976 insulation standards. How did the council sign that off? I estimate it would cost about £3,000 to improve the insulation to a good standard, and another £2,000 to replace the boiler with a modern efficient one. I can’t afford that on my modest pension, so it won’t get done anytime soon. The high cost of insulation is due to the unconventional design of the house, which has no loft.

  25. March 6, 2017 5:23 am

    The Us tried Gov backed insulationof homes under Obama as a obs program. Billions of dollars were spent and most was either syolen or of little use. Central planning does not work in any area of the economy.

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