By Ron Cowley, CEO
In a perfect world we would put things right for ourselves without getting the government involved. If you own your home and need new carpets, you pay for them. Dripping tap, leaky roof, that ill-judged ‘signature wall’ you decided to paint deep blue then regretted? All your problem, not the Treasury’s. And rightly so.
Gas boilers impact everyone
But your gas-burning boiler is different. However bad your DIY decisions, on the whole they won’t affect the rest of us. But your heating might. We know the way most of us heat our homes today won’t work for the future and that forty per cent of our carbon emissions come from our buildings. We know that’s got to change, and – crucially – if it doesn’t, everyone will suffer. The obstacle for many has been, quite simply, the cost.
Now there are reports the government may step in to help, making payments to lower- and middle-income families that encourage a switch to green energy sources while offsetting higher gas bills in the meantime, and potentially introducing a scrappage scheme for old boilers – money to get rid of them. That’s a good thing. Perhaps, in one form or another, it’s even an inevitable thing.
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has explained that funding a climate transition will cost billions, though less than tackling the pandemic. For its sums the officials there assumed the state would meet all the cost for the fifteen per cent of worst-off households and half the costs for the middle seventy per cent of households. The OBR won’t make the decisions, but their assumptions are important. No one sensible thinks we’ll transform how our homes are heated without the state getting involved.
Subsidies for a greener life
In truth, where ministers want us to invest to make our lives a bit greener they have tended to make a contribution. Subsidies helped dot our roofs with solar panels. A car scrappage scheme took hundreds of thousands of old vehicles off the road. We will need similar schemes in future. It’s easy to spend the Chancellor’s money for him of course. And – as Rishi Sunak tends to remind us – it isn’t his money. It’s ours. But the OBR also pointed out that the cost of tackling these problems could be twice as high as expected if the government delayed taking action. In other words, if we are going to spend the money as a nation anyway, we should get on with it.
How the active building centre is helping
We are here to help. At the Active Building Centre, we are doing the research to drive costs down, advising the construction firms creating the homes of the future, and showing how the technology can work. We will have to redouble our efforts to make this work. But we will all need to work in partnership with the UK’s governments to make this happen. It will take hard work and ingenuity, and – yes – taxpayers’ support if we are to deliver the transformation the country needs. But where you need a greener home, collectively we should help you. If you’re still regretting that signature wall though, you’re on your own.
Published July 2021