Energy efficiency: how the countryside is losing out

Today CPRE publishes a new report, Warm and Green, about the need to improve the efficiency of buildings in rural England – and the potential consequences if we continue to focus on the supply energy while doing too little to limit demand. Here is my article about the report, from the forthcoming issue of the Countryman.

Houses in the country tend to be older than those in towns and more expensive to heat. But despite the fact that they face higher than average energy costs, rural communities get little of the money available for energy efficiency. Rural areas are home to almost a fifth of England’s population, but receive less than 1p for every pound the Government invests in energy efficiency.

The result is too many people who cannot afford to heat their homes adequately. But there are also serious environmental consequences. If Britain is to meet the Climate Change Act’s targets for carbon reduction, which all the main parties support, we must use much less energy. It will not be enough to make urban houses more efficient if those in the countryside continue to leach heat.

A new report from CPRE, Warm and Green, shows how we can do better. It gives examples of initiatives that have cut fuel consumption, both new build housing and retrofitting of existing buildings. Combs Village Hall in Derbyshire, for instance, has almost halved its energy usage in the last ten years through a mixture of better insulation and supply. But there are always heroic pioneers. What is needed is a big push so that all rural communities can use less energy.

Of course, we could tear up the Climate Change Act, but I would not recommend that. Climate change is serious, and while it is true that Britain contributes only a small fraction of the world’s carbon emissions, we will certainly not be able to persuade other countries to reduce their emissions unless we cut our own.

If we stick to our carbon targets, we will have to produce more clean energy and use energy more efficiently. At present, most of the focus, including from green groups, is on supply. It seems to be much more exciting to debate whether we want more or less wind or solar power, nuclear energy or fracking, than to focus on small scale solutions that get round the need to generate energy in the first place.

But if we carry on as we are, putting up with buildings that waste carbon and money while looking to renewable energy to compensate, we will need to cover the country in biomass crops, wind farms and solar panels. That really would be bonkers.

1 Response to “Energy efficiency: how the countryside is losing out”

  1. 1 Arthur Franks April 17, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    I have been saying for a long time that instead of giving energy companies big subsidies the Govt. should pay for all houses with a suitable roof to have solar panels and any unneeded power be sold to the energy companies at a fair price

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