HVAC suppliers query General Election energy efficiency ambitions

As the UK heads to the polls, a number of companies and organisations have accused UK politicians of not doing enough to cut energy demand for functions such as heat

Specialists providers of components and energy management systems have questioned political commitments to improving the efficiency of the UK building stock during this year’s general election.

Denmark-based energy efficiency expert Danfoss has critcised the majority of UK political parties for what it calls a failure to adequately address the issue of energy efficiency in their manifestos. The statement expresses the opinion that without a radical rethinking of energy efficiency, the next UK government will not be able ensure energy security, reduce energy costs, or meet its net zero targets. Some of these companies have argued for a rethink that embraces a range of measures such as insulation improvements and the effective use of components and system design changes.

Alain Baird, Danfoss country manager for the UK and Ireland said: “While there are some passing mentions of improving insulation for housing in parties’ manifestos, the current thinking around energy efficiency is stuck in the fossil fuel era, and this outdated understanding of energy efficiency is jeopardising our ability to meet global climate goals”.

Mr Baird stated that without a concerted effort to rethink and prioritise energy efficiency, the country has no chance of meeting its ambition for clean energy networks or achieving the legal requirement for a net zero transition by 2050.

His statement emphasised that any ambitions to expand the global use of clean electricity, must focus on the efficient use of supplies. Other recommendations include ensuring energy is being used at the right time, such as when more sustainable supplies are available. Mr Baird added that by transitioning from an existing fossil fuel-dependent system to an electrified alternative, it would be possible to cut up to 40 per cent of energy consumption. He added: “Energy efficiency must not be an afterthought to renewables, and that’s why it’s so important that the UK’s decision makers take time to see all the energy efficiency solutions available already today”.

In addition, Grundfos managing director Glynn Williams recently released a statement arguing that political parties could do more to improve the energy efficiency of UK homes and businesses in order to save people money and contribute towards the net zero transition. The comments followed the launch of Labour’s election manifesto last month.

Mr Williams said: “While several parties like The Greens, Liberal Democrats, and lastly Labour’s additional £6.6bn funding to energy efficiency is positive for UK’s building owners there is still too much focus on insulation as a sole measure in all the main political parties’ manifestos.”

“Instead, policymakers should focus on low-cost, high-impact improvements that can quickly benefit homes and businesses. This is important as UK should already now start to plan and increase the levels of energy efficiency towards the incoming heating season where the cost-of-living crisis will once again be exacerbated.”

He also added that: “Successful solutions needn’t break the balance sheet. The future government could also extend or ear-mark upgrades to existing boiler and insulation schemes to include cost-effective and easily implementable solutions such as circulators, TRV or hydraulic balancing.”

The UK Green Building Council has also been among the organisations that have looked to scrutinise the different manifesto commitments from the country’s main political parties over the course of the election period.

It concluded that proposals in the Green Party manifesto, which would assign £29bn to retrofit buildings with initiatives such as widescale insulation improvements, should serve as a benchmark for the type of investment needed in energy efficiency.

In almost all cases, the organisation has said that some of the more ambitious election proposals, including commitments made by parties such as the Liberal Democrats, were still not sufficient to address the scale of changes needed to make buildings more energy efficient.

Louise Hutchins, policy head for the UKGBC, said that larger parties standing in the election had made some welcome commitments to tackle the health impacts of cold, mouldy homes on occupants who cannot afford effective heating.

However, much more ambition would be needed. She added: “What we haven’t seen is a commitment to fight for the scale of public investment needed to make this happen. Anything less than £64bn over 10 years, for home upgrades alone, is unrealistic.”

This industry-wide push to have politicians recognise the severity and importance of these issues has been echoed by the Building Services Association (BESA) in their campaign ‘NextGen Take On the Election: Vote Because Your Lives Depend On It’, which urges BESA’s young members to get out and vote.

The guidance also aims to offer summaries of some of the main commitments from the UK’s political parties that could impact the building engineering sector if enacted to help inform potential young voters.

Curtis Armstrong from BESA’s NextGen Network says: “Many people of our generation feel frustrated and often ignored by the UK’s politicians. We are troubled by the cost-of-living crisis, social inequality, lack of progress on climate change, lack of affordable housing for younger people, and poor rates of pay that make it harder to save for a comfortable future. Voting can seem a futile gesture as nothing ever seems to change, but the next generation has most to gain from voting and most to lose from not.”

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