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Improving energy efficiency in Welsh homes critical for health and well-being

Published: 26 October 2021

A new report, published today by Public Health Wales, calls for improvements to the energy efficiency of existing Welsh housing stock in order to help people’s everyday health and wellbeing, and impact the climate emergency. 

Energy inefficiency is one of the three factors that the Welsh Government’s energy efficiency strategy cites as determining whether a household will be in fuel poverty, alongside household income and energy prices. Inefficient housing results in people using more energy to heat their homes, which in turn results in greater costs to the consumer, increased emissions into the environment and, in most cases, the burning of fossil fuels. 

The discussion paper highlights how, at present, Wales’ housing stock is some of the least energy efficient in Europe.  

Key messages are:  

  • Wales has the oldest housing stock in the United Kingdom, with the lowest proportion of dwellings with an EPC rated ‘C’ or above.  
  • As of 2018, there were 155,000 households living in fuel poverty, equivalent to 12 per cent of all households in Wales, with households in the private rented sector more likely to be in fuel poverty.  
  • Given the Coronavirus pandemic, and its impact on personal finances and the increase in people being at home for prolonged periods, it is likely that this number will increase.  
  • In the context of climate change, around 15 per cent of Wales’ carbon emissions come from homes. 
  • Residential buildings make up the bulk of energy emissions from buildings in Wales, with 82 per cent of all building emissions, and 7.5 per cent of total Welsh energy emissions, according to 2016 figures.  
  • This represents a 31 per cent reduction in total emissions from buildings between 1990 and 2016, but there is still a great deal to do to improve residential energy efficiency and thus reduce emissions. 

Adam Jones – Senior Policy Officer at Public Health Wales, said:  

“The latest data on energy efficiency in Welsh residences confirms that the energy efficiency of homes in Wales has improved over the last decade, and social housing has the highest percentage of homes with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of C or above. 

“This paper has highlighted that efforts to improve household energy efficiency can have a positive impact on ambitions for decarbonisation and climate change, and can also lead to improvements in health and well-being, however, in the context of health improvement and energy efficiency, the evidence base is limited, and there is the potential for some health-harming impacts, such as the risk of radon which needs to be acknowledged. Going forward, evaluations of household energy efficiency measures would benefit from consideration of whether the initiative has improved the resident’s health or their subjective well-being, and acknowledging the interconnectedness of health, energy efficiency and individual and societal economic well-being through policy is to be encouraged. 

“One consideration is to put equal importance on improving the energy efficiency of existing homes alongside regulating for efficiency measures as standard in new homes. Offering a package of affordable energy efficiency measures that could be adopted should remain available to residents/owners of current housing stock, particularly those with chronic health conditions, along with detailed guidance, information and advice about energy efficiency.” 

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