Does the Great British Insulation Scheme do enough to tackle “leaky” housing stock?

Great British Insulation Scheme tackles the UK's "leaky" housing stock

What is the Great British Insulation Scheme

The government has released their latest plans for energy security, outlining their approach to addressing climate change and achieving net-zero.  

This initiative aims to improve the energy efficiency of 300,000 of the country’s least efficient homes, with 80% of households in council tax bands A to D eligible for funding. Incentives will also be provided for households to switch from boilers to heat pumps.  

Buildings currently count for about 25 per cent of the country’s emissions annually, according to the UK Green Building Council. The ambition is for a 15 per cent cut in carbon emissions from buildings and related industry by 2030.  

According to the government, these measures could save households up to £400 annually on energy bills. 

However, the announcement regarding home insulation has been met with disappointment from activists. Despite being dubbed ‘Green Day’ by officials, the updated net-zero strategy does not allocate any new funding towards increasing the energy efficiency of homes in the UK. Instead, the previously announced £1bn ECO+ scheme has been renamed The Great British Insulation Scheme.   

What is missing from the initiaitve


The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero’s plans have been criticized for not including a national retrofit strategy, despite demands from industry experts, such as RIBA.  

Simon Allford, President of RIBA, emphasized the need for a comprehensive National Retrofit Strategy, pointing out that millions of homes in the country require whole house retrofits instead of just insulation.  

Allford believes such a strategy will create jobs, upskill workers, and lead to the development of healthier and greener homes. 

Jim McDonald, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, also stressed that retrofitting should go hand in hand with insulation. He suggested that recommendations from a previous report by former energy minister Chris Skidmore, which proposed the establishment of national hubs for retrofitting to update the UK’s housing stock, be implemented to make progress.  



Jim McDonald further highlighted the importance of training individuals working in the built environment to achieve the net-zero goal, stating that the UK is currently facing a shortfall of engineering skills due to an inability to keep up with the demand. 

To address this issue, he emphasized the need to develop new ways of learning and training locally, with the support of individuals, employers, education providers, and training providers. 

The government has pledged £9.2 million towards skills and training through the Home Decarbonisation Skills Training competition, which was announced in September and later incorporated into the net-zero strategy. 

Would you invest in insulation

As part of the recent Green Day announcements, the government has conducted a survey of 1,000 homeowners to determine their interest in various insulation options when offered a government subsidy.  

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero presented participants with different scenarios for installing insulation in their walls, loft, or under their floors, and asked if they would be willing to pay specific amounts for different types of insulation. 

For example, participants were asked if they would pay £1,500 for cavity wall insulation to save £140 per year in a typical semi-detached home or £20,000 for solid wall insulation to save £300 annually. They were also given the option to install loft insulation for around £1,200, resulting in a potential annual saving of up to £100, or insulate the roof space for around £5,900 for the same saving. Finally, underfloor insulation could cost £2,700 for a potential saving of £70 per year. 

Figure 3. Percentage point increase in simulated uptake of each retrofit measure, by subsidy level.

It may not come as a surprise that government funding increased the likelihood of homeowners investing in insulation for their homes. 

The survey found that the primary reason for choosing not to invest in any of the insulation methods was the inability to afford the upfront insulation costs. This financial barrier would prevent 70% of homeowners from investing in wall insulation, while 56% and 47% of homeowners would be unable to invest in roof and underfloor insulation, respectively. 

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