Sunday, November 28

Britain’s energy problem: outdated heating, leaky windows



Europamagazin

Status: 10/30/2021 4:14 p.m.

A large part of UK CO2 emissions come from poorly insulated homes with outdated heating systems. Every year people freeze to death in their own homes. But the government’s energy offensive falls short for many.

By Valerie Krall, ARD Studio London

A small group of protesters sit outside the Home Office in London. Two television crews are there – and the police. That’s enough attention for them: “It has to stop with the thousands of deaths every year,” calls a woman into the microphone. “It cannot be that in the 21st century people have to choose between eating and heating.” For weeks they have been blocking roads and highways almost every day, sticking to the asphalt. “Insulate Britain” is on their posters. They demonstrate for better thermal insulation.

UK: Outdated heating, poor insulation and energy poverty

Valerie Krall, ARD London, European magazine, October 29, 2021

More than 8,000 people in the UK freeze to death in their own homes every winter. The cliché of bad windows and constant draft is a bitterly cold reality for many. Almost 40 percent of the houses were built before 1946 – and are accordingly poorly insulated.

A lack of government initiatives, also due to the construction industry lobby, have ensured that not much has changed in the past few decades.

Great effect with little effort: the activists of “Insulate Britain” repeatedly block roads and highways in Great Britain.

Build: AP

Gas prices exacerbate “energy poverty”

The result is high heating costs and widespread “fuel poverty” – that is, energy poverty – in which people have to spend a large part of their income on heating costs. The current record prices for gasoline and gas are making matters worse.

Muhammad Ansar Mustaquim feels this every day. He works as a legal advisor in East London. “People suffer,” he says. More and more clients turned to him for advice because they couldn’t pay their bills.

Big renovation backlog

Ansar himself lives in a poorly insulated row house and pays a lot for electricity and gas. His house should actually have been renovated ten years ago. At that time the Labor Party was ruling and starting a house renovation program.

Ansar’s neighbor Saif Muhammad was the first on his street. Saif says his bills have been cut in half since the isolation. In the whole of the previous year he turned on the heating maybe five times.

But as promising as the program began, it ended quickly: in 2010 the Conservative Party came to power and gradually cut the money.

The problem of permeable windows affects houses of all types in the UK – it is very threatening to the very existence of the poorer population.

Bild: picture alliance / dpa

Bad insulation leads to high emissions

That frustrates the architect Justin Bere, who was renovating Saif’s house at the time. He wants the government to prioritize the issue again: “It’s not just about the people of today, but also about the future of the people and the climate in which they will live.”

Because the high energy consumption is harmful to the environment. Residential emissions accounted for around 17 percent of all greenhouse gases in the UK in 2019.

The protest movement “Insulate Britain” is therefore calling on the government to isolate all social housing by 2025 and to make every residential building energy-efficient by 2030.

“It’s actually a win-win situation,” says Bing Jones, who has been in jail for several nights for his protests for “Insulate Britain”. Better insulation would reduce CO2 emissions and create jobs. “It is negligent that the government canceled programs to do this,” says Bing.

“Leaky, inefficient, waste of money”

Shortly before the UN climate summit in Glasgow, the protest movement wants to increase the pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The recently published its net zero strategy, with which the UK is to become climate neutral by 2050.

Johnson highlighted one element in particular: financial aid for environmentally friendly heat pumps to replace old gas boilers. The grants are sufficient for 90,000 heat pumps. However, there are gas boilers in around 25 million houses.

Also, heat pumps don’t work well in houses that are poorly insulated. The Green politician Caroline Lucas wrote on Twitter that it was like buying a teapot with holes: “Leaking, inefficient, a waste of money”.

This winter, the Charity National Energy Action fears, a fifth of all tenants could be affected by energy poverty. And experts warn that the announced government programs will not be enough to achieve the UK’s climate targets.


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