Jeremy Hunt has pledged a further £6bn to improve Britain’s leaky housing stock and pushed the button on the Sizewell C nuclear power station project.
In his autumn statement, the chancellor announced that a taskforce would oversee an initiative to insulate homes and upgrade boilers, and would receive extra funding between 2025 and 2028.
He said £6.6bn would be spent during this parliament on energy efficiency, and announced a further £6bn of funding from 2025, “doubling annual investment”.
Hunt said cutting energy bills would ease the cost of living crisis, and set a target to reduce the energy consumption of buildings and industry by 15%.
“Over the long term, there is only one way to stop ourselves being at the mercy of international gas prices: energy independence combined with energy efficiency,” he said.
Hunt confirmed that Sizewell C in Suffolk would be “the first state-backed nuclear power station for 30 years” after a £700m investment.
Boris Johnson gave the £30bn project the green light in one of his last acts as prime minister but Hunt’s move to cut spending had created uncertainty around the planned power plant’s future.
Hunt said contracts would be signed in “coming weeks” with partners in the project, including the French state energy firm EDF, which is building Sizewell’s sister station at Hinkley Point C, which is delayed and over budget.
He said the station would provide power for 6m homes for 50 years. However, critics argue that it will take years to build and push up bills.
The Nuclear Industry Association said the decision “represents the biggest step in our journey to energy independence”. But the Stop Sizewell C campaign said it “loads more tax on to struggling households, who would be forced to pay a nuclear levy on bills for a decade before they could light a single lightbulb”.
Campaigners have long demanded that the government launch a concerted drive to improve home energy efficiency, arguing it would be the simplest way to cut bills and reduce household emissions.
The government has made attempts to improve household energy efficiency over the past decade. The Green Deal offered loans for consumers to install double glazing and insulation but was seen as complex and did not receive widespread take-up. Last year, Boris Johnson cut the green homes grant, citing lack of consumer interest.
Energy installations chart
In September, the government extended the existing energy company obligation scheme, under which they are expected to spend £5bn between 2022 and 2026. The scheme aims to install insulation and upgrade heating systems for low-income households.
skip past newsletter promotion
Sign up to Business Today
Free daily newsletter
Get set for the working day – we’ll point you to all the business news and analysis you need every morning
The Energy Saving Trust has said that installing 270mm of insulation, in a home with none, can cost between £455 and £640, depending on whether it is terraced, detached or a bungalow.
Labour had called for the government to make insulating homes a “national mission” that could save people £11bn in three years.
Angela Terry, the chief executive of the climate change action group One Home, said: “The news that the government is planning to set up an energy efficiency taskforce is welcome but they have to work with speed as temperatures drop this winter.
“Insulating our homes is the single-most important step we can take to reduce our energy bills, bring down inflation and tackle the climate crisis.”
Jess Ralston, a senior analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “For those struggling through this winter and the next, investment in insulation in 2025 is two years too late.”
The chancellor also said the energy price guarantee would be kept for a further 12 months at an average of £3,000 for a typical household, up from £2,500 at present. Analysts said the move would cost about £6bn.
Hunt said there would also be further payments for help with energy bills for pensioners, for poorer households and for disabled people.