Reports on how to tackle the UK's ageing, energy inefficient and hard to heat homes are, it would appear, like buses. You wait ages for one to show up, then a flurry of them appear together.
Take for example the past two weeks. We've had reports from Age UK and Citizen's Advice calling for an eradication of fuel poverty; the union Unison has demanded "serious action now" on high energy bills; and draft guidance on how to reduce illnesses and deaths amongst elderly people living in cold homes has been issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
But today sees the launch of something a bit different. The UK Green Building Council and a coalition of 19 other organisations, including the Energy Saving Trust, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the National Housing Federation and WWF, is publishing A housing stock fit for the future.
What's different about this report is that is presents a proposition to reframe energy efficiency as a 'national infrastructure priority'. It focuses on the huge potential for job creation, economic growth, energy affordability and security, and of course the carbon reductions that could be delivered if instead of thinking about 26 million small problems, we focus on one major infrastructure opportunity.
Also significant is the large number of organisations backing the report and their shared consensus both on the importance of home energy efficiency and the extent to which Government must prioritise it. This is important considering the diversity of the organisation's individual interests, from the economic-based focus of the Aldersgate Group to the fuel poverty aims of Energy Bill Revolution.
Place this in the context of those other reports and there is clearly a growing number of bodies, from charities and environmental groups, to membership organisations, trade associations and consumer watchdogs, that are aware our homes are simply not up to scratch and that will fight to improve them.
And, as the wider campaign for improving our homes increasingly enjoys strength in numbers, so does the economic case for energy efficiency itself:
• Cutting average energy bills by £300 a year and lifting nine out of 10 homes out of fuel poverty
• Doubling the number of jobs in the sector from 135,000 to 260,000
• Saving billions on NHS and social care costs
• Reducing our reliance on imported gas by 19 per cent, saving £2bn a year
• Helping the UK meet its climate change target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050
Sound too good to be true? Well it might be if energy efficiency continues to be excluded from the list of the UK's infrastructure priorities such as transport, waste and communications. As outlined in this report, Government must integrate energy efficiency into its infrastructure plan if it is to realise the benefits above.
We are calling on Government to commit to a target of achieving 1 million deep retrofits a year by 2020. To get there, a significant programme of energy efficiency would be needed, with public investment of £3-4bn a year. These may sound like ambitious figures yet they should be viewed in the context of the current annual capital investment in infrastructure - some £45billion.
We must change the conversation around energy efficiency, presenting it as an investible programme akin to HS2, new nuclear power stations, aviation expansion or the smart meter roll-out. If Government is serious about creating homes that are fit for the future, whilst tackling the cost of living crisis and climate change, the bricks and mortar of our existing housing stock deserve to be included.