UK Green Home Upgrades Could Provide £7bn in Annual Benefits, but Caveats Remain

Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD



Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD

­According to a study, green home upgrades could boost the UK economy by £7bn a year (about $8 bn U.S. dollars) and create 140,000 new jobs by 2030. But that’s contingent on a huge multitude of factors, including a giant upfront investment for renewable energy in general.

The study in question, by Cambridge Econometrics (commissioned by Greenpeace), relies on prospective energy bill savings and the creation of green jobs to arrive at its £7bn figure, but the driving force behind it – green home upgrades – is thus far entirely voluntary.

While Downing Street offers citizens £5,000 towards a new heat pump, the household must meet a high standard of home insulation, to the tune of £7,000 to £15,000.

And for the Cambridge Econometrics report to come true by 2030, the UK government would need to spend £4.2bn on supporting heat pumps and insulation, while households would have to foot a £9.3bn bill.

“Greening the UK’s homes at speed and scale will reduce energy consumption, bills and carbon emissions. It will provide tens of millions of households with warmer homes that are cheaper to run and help limit the catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis,” said Doug Parr, the chief scientist at Greenpeace UK.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), all of those targets – plus loftier ones set for 2050 – rely on a hefty amount of voluntary participation, and world crises (like war) can derail those goals.

The Russian-Ukrainian war was a wake-up call for the European nations relying heavily on Russian gas, and in some cases, EU member states haven’t been able to make up the difference expediently.

In no small part due to Russia cutting off gas exports to the West, the EU recently revised its renewable energy goal from 32% of total power production to 45% by 2030. According to the UAE-based International Renewable Energy Agency, the EU would need to add 26.8GW of annual wind farm capacity to reach their goal in eight years.

Solar, meanwhile, would need to grow by 55.4GW per year.

Not everyone involved thinks these audacious targets are within the realm of possibility. Graham Weale, professor of energy economics at Ruhr University Bochum and former chief economist at German energy producer RWE, feels the EU’s new renewables targets, are “fairyland figures.”

Low-carbon research specialist BloombergNEF feels that Europe could be completely free of fossil fuels by 2050, but it would require a gargantuan $3.8 trillion investment in mostly wind and solar projects.

If these…optimistic goals come to fruition across Europe, one would assume that Cambridge Econometrics’ fiscal and employment boost would be multiplied several times over, but every one of those targets is at least as much wishful thinking as a tangible prediction and will require a ton of EU investment and voluntary participation by the citizenry.