The UK has some of the least energy-efficient housing in Europe – here’s how to fix this. One solution proposed in the government’s new plan is to install 600,000 heat pumps by 2028. Heat pumps are similar to air conditioning units but they transfer and circulate energy from a source of heat – such as air, ground or water – through a compressor and into our homes. They can be a good way to improve energy efficiency for some homes, but they require significant investment (from the government or homeowner) and the installation process can be disruptive and time-consuming. And while 600,000 may sound like a decent amount, this figure actually falls short of previous suggestions made by the UK Energy Research Centre. But while these plans might be step forward on the way to improving the UK’s housing, the solutions don’t go far enough. In fact, the government would do well to look further afield to how other countries have creatively “greened” up their housing. In the Netherlands for example, the government is improving the energy efficiency of its existing buildings through a new technology called Energiesprong, initially funded by the government. The technology helps refurbish houses to high levels of energy efficiency in less than ten days using wall and window insulation, solar roofs and smart heating systems. The approach leads to fewer emissions, but also less waste, as most of the components are prefabricated, which also allows for quick assembly. Other examples are Austria and Italy, both of which have promoted the use of technology and sustainable solutions to pilot innovative house refurbishment at a city-level. In five years, two pilot cities – Innsburuck in Austria and Bolzano in Italy – successfully reduced household energy by 40%-50% and emissions by 30%.
The Conversation 15th Jan 2021 read more »