As you will no doubt be aware by now, on Tuesday 21st February 2023 the Government announced that it was to set up the Energy Efficiency Taskforce to “support a step change in the reduction of energy demand through accelerated delivery of energy efficiency across the economy“. Initially we didn’t get too excited by this as we recognised the need for the Government to move up through the gears to achieve their own net zero targets but the interesting leadership of the group have got us thinking that perhaps this time it could be different and we are cautiously optimistic for both our own external wall insulation industry and the wider energy efficiency market as a whole.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero outlined the general purpose of the Taskforce to be as follows:

The taskforce will advise and work with ministers on delivery of the government’s ambition to reduce total UK energy demand by 15% from 2021 levels by 2030, across domestic and commercial buildings and industrial processes. The taskforce will have a particular focus on the role of the private sector and the stimulation of investment. Its priority areas of focus will include:

  • stimulating the supply chain to address and increase investment, reduce skills gaps, accelerate pathways to accreditation, improve product manufacturing capability, and increase the wider availability of materials required to deliver high quality upgrades at pace
  • identifying barriers and opportunities in existing market and regulatory frameworks to delivering the demand reduction ambition in a way that works for business, consumers and society in order to inform policy decisions
  • increasing consumer, public sector, and business engagement in the delivery of existing and new initiatives on energy efficiency and clean heat. This may include addressing the lack of consumer take-up or behavioural change and high attrition rates
  • working with the private sector to increase the availability of green finance linked to installation standards and quality
  • tackling different installation challenges and embedding the need for standards across differently funded markets (considering recent tragedies highlighting the risks in domestic settings)
  • working with DESNZ to gather, monitor and respond to data that shows progress towards the 15% demand reduction target

At the same time, at a meeting with nearly 100 representatives from the UK’s top green firms, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed that the Taskforce would be co-chaired by Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Minister Lord Callanan as Co-Chair alongside Alison Rose, Group Chief Executive Officer at NatWest. Alison has extensive experience in financing energy efficiency and NatWest Group has committed provide £100 billion of Climate and Sustainable Funding and Financing between 1 July 2021 and the end of 2025 to help families buy energy-efficient homes and create jobs that will deliver our transition to Net Zero

Whilst perhaps Lord Callanan as co-chair is no great surprise the same cannot be said for Alison Rose but perhaps, as an industry, we should welcome this appointment with open arms.

Let’s face it, the biggest frustrations we’ve faced in the EWI retrofit industry always seem to relate to Government funding initiatives – the theory and intentions of which are on target but the practicalities and longevity consistently lack … the Green Deal, Green Homes Grant, the delays to ECO 4 and ECO plus … need we go on! So maybe, just maybe, Alison’s vast experience around financing energy efficiency is just what we need!

In fact the Government went so far as to suggest this was the case by saying it was “responding to industry’s call for long-term funding certainty to help strengthen UK supply chains” and that it would be making £6 billion of government funding available from 2025 to support this objective, in addition to the £6.6 billion allocated this Parliament – taking the total to £12.6 billion this decade.

The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said:

“Our green industry is a key growth sector set to be worth £1 trillion by the end of the decade. It will bring high-paid jobs, brand new manufacturers and huge export opportunities – but needs extra attention now to make sure British companies and our people can fully share in the sector’s success and grow the economy.”

Energy Security & Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“I am determined to reduce people’s energy bills, bringing wholesale energy prices down to their lowest ever within the next decade, through investment in cheaper and more innovative energy sources such as renewables and nuclear.

But improving the energy efficiency of our homes by bringing the latest technologies into them will also help cut energy use, and with that people’s bills.

Mr Shapps also addressed another major EWI industry challengewhen he highlighted the taskforce’s committment to “clearing the barriers to getting this done, whether that’s investment, training up installers or improving the supply of products”::

The Energy Efficiency Taskforce – to be led by the excellent Lord Callanan and Alison Rose – will be committed to clearing the barriers to getting this done, whether that’s investment, training up installers or improving the supply of products

Alison Rose, Chief Executive Officer of NatWest Group, said:

“I’m delighted to be co-chairing the new Energy Efficiency Taskforce, alongside Lord Callanan. Addressing the climate crisis is a team sport, and building vital partnerships between the public and private sector is the key to tackling this challenge at pace.

Improving energy efficiency will not only drive a lower carbon environment, but also deliver greater economic security through lower bills for people, families, and businesses right across the UK.”

We are awaiting news confirming the membership of the Taskforce’s Steering Group which will be announced in due course – this will include expert members drawn from the energy efficiency, clean heat and industrial process sectors alongside wider delivery bodies, business, academia, non-profits, local authorities, and the housing sector. We’ll do our very best to make sure that the EWI industry has effective representation of course.

Investment, commitment to training, improvements to supply chain and long-term funding certainty … we’re hearing exactly the right words and let’s hope that by adding such high-level financing expertise at long last we’re turning a corner and this time we’re not about to head off down another dead end road!