New research reveals soaring energy bills are set to be felt acutely in places where Conservatives secured slender majorities in 2019, due to the concentration of inefficient housing stock in those areas
Above average levels of energy inefficient housing in marginal constituencies could see energy efficiency become a pivotal issue at the next general election, a new analysis has suggested.
Research published today by think tank ECIU reveals that 37 of the 40 most marginal seats in the 2019 election have a greater than average proportion of homes that do not meet Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C, meaning that households in those places could face energy bills that are £170 to £400 higher annually than more efficient homes as the ongoing gas price crisis continues to place upward pressure on bills.
The Conservatives are the party who won the most marginal seats in 2019, claiming 22 of the seats won with a margin of less than 2,000 votes, the report notes.
The findings also reveal that 27 out of the 40 most marginal seats also have higher than average levels of fuel poverty. As an example, the researchers point to Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, which was gained by the Conservatives in 2019 with a winning margin of just 1,561 votes. More than a quarter of households in the constituency live in fuel poverty.
As it published its research, the ECIU stressed that insulation has historically been a priority for the electorate, with polling ahead of the last general election showing that a third of Brits chose insulation as their top choice for infrastructure investment, compared to just 12 per cent who picked new roads.
Jess Ralston, analyst at ECIU and lead author of the report, stressed that efforts to boost household energy efficiency were key to tackling the ongoing gas price crisis, noting that millions of people in the UK were living in cold, damp homes that damaged their health and resulted in higher energy bills.
“The current gas crisis is a stark reminder of how vulnerable so many households are to the volatility of the international gas price,” she said. “Drilling in the North Sea doesn’t shield us from the fact that gas is an international market, currently being driven up by Russia reducing flows. To protect bill payers from this and the next crisis, the UK has to use less gas, and that means better insulated homes that stay warm.
The report also highlights that the highest proportion of homes below the EPC Band C target that the government wants all homes to meet by 2035 are located disproportionately in the North and Midlands.
The analysis comes just a week after the government outlined its mission to cut the number of non-decent rented homes by half by 2030 in its Levelling Up White Paper.
In related news, a separate analysis from the Liberal Democrats this week has calculated the cumulative cost of the government’s 2015 decision to scrap the zero carbon homes has resulted in around £234m in additional energy costs for those living in new build homes.
The research, covered in the Guardian, calculates that since 2016 almost 1.2 million homes have been built with energy efficiency standards well below the level needed in the long term to reach the UK’s net zero emissions target. Each of those homes could have delivered an energy bill saving of £200 a year for residents if the originally proposed zero carbon homes standards had been retained, it estimates.
The figures come just a few weeks after Carbon Brief calculated decisions taken by David Cameron’s government to scrap green policies in 2015 have resulted in energy bills that are currently £2.5m higher across the UK, rising to £3.1bn next winter.
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