The importance of insulating more homes for vulnerable people
Many Britons will remember a series of protests and disruptions undertaken by activist group Insulate Britain in late 2021. At the time, the pressure group’s concerns were dismissed as relatively irrelevant, and their methods lambasted by politicians and media correspondents alike.
But the concerns raised by Insulate Britain turned out to be somewhat prescient, as a combination of emerging issues and crises create a perfect storm for households across the country regarding their heating, energy efficiency and health.
In particular, vulnerable households are shouldering the worst of the consequences, as many pension-age individuals are faced with an impossible decision to pay for food or heating this winter. But how exactly did it come to this, what role does home insulation play and in what way are the government acting in response?
Britain’s Insulation Issue
Insulate Britain’s key demands related to a complete overhaul of Britain’s approach to home insulation – including the blanket improvement of insulation in social housing by 2025. Insulating one’s home can have a dramatic impact on the energy efficiency of that home, and increase the ambient temperature making for a safer, more comfortable home environment.
Roof insulation is a key part of the puzzle, trapping warm air pockets in the home and preventing convective heat loss. Cavity wall insulation is a major intervention too, massively mitigating heat loss through walls. Insulate Britain’s demands have been shown in a new light recently, with experts revealing that Britain’s homes are the worst in Europe for energy efficiency.
The Cost-of-Living Crisis
The news comes at a time of crisis for the average household. Costs have risen dramatically due to a rising rate of inflation, which was precipitated largely by steep increases to the price of household energy bills. These energy bill increases have a number of causes themselves, from the UK’s exit from the EU to Russia’s attempted invasion of Ukraine.
Insulate Britain’s demands primarily align with the ethos of Extinction Rebellion from which they were formed, seeking active response to a growing climate crisis. But today they have grown new relevance, as rising energy bills highlight the poor energy efficiency of many older homes in the UK. With pensioners and low-income households disproportionately affected, something needs to be done.
The government have come under fire for their slowness to act on an issue that has quickly become urgent for a majority of older households in the UK. However, since the election of a new Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister in Liz Truss, new measures have been announced in September 2022 to assist vulnerable communities.
The first is a freeze on energy bills for the coming winter, which will prevent further rises beyond the next Ofgem price cap increase. For the longer term, government grants exist that subsidise the cost of energy bills, the installation of insulation and even the installation of energy-efficient alternatives to combi boilers.