Britain has already been facing an energy cost crisis as the renewed growth of the global economy prompted by the easing of the pandemic has pushed up prices of oil and gas. But the situation in Ukraine has made the situation much worse.
The reason for this is the high levels of reliance Europe has on Russian oil and gas, with the latter accounting for 40 per cent of the supply in the case of Germany. In Britain, the figure is much lower, but the UK still cannot escape the consequences of the global price increase.
While there are those who advocate seeking alternative sources – including a suggestion by government minister Jacob Rees-Mogg that the contentious option of fracking for shale gas be revisited – others are looking at different solutions.
Naturally, the focus on renewable energy is sure to increase, with Citywire noting how much stocks have risen for firms working in this area in recent days.
However, alongside debates about fracking, nuclear, wind, solar and other sources of energy, it may be that what is actually needed most to keep Britain’s energy bills down is increased insulation supplies.
A study by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) think tank has said improving the levels of insulation, alongside the installation of ground source heat pumps, offers a far faster way of balancing Britain’s household energy needs than trying to find more sources of gas in the UK.
It argues that this is a “tried and tested” method of reducing the need to burn gas for energy in the first place, making it an obvious way of shifting away from Russian hydrocarbons. But it has also been underused, with Britain having done too little to insulate homes so far.
The analysis concluded that simply installing enough insulation to raise a home’s Performance Certificate rating from a D to a C would cut its need for energy by 20 per cent. If this improvement was carried out in one million homes, it would save an annual £245 million in wholesale gas costs.
If a million homes were improved this way each year, the study concludes this would mean that, after 12 years, one year’s worth of domestic gas demand would be saved.
Advocacy of more and better home insulation for Britain’s draughty dwellings is hardly a new idea, although many would argue the ‘Insulate Britain’ group did more harm than good to this cause with its disruptive campaigns of roadblocks last autumn.
However, the Ukraine situation is set to prompt a new energy strategy from the government, with prime minister Boris Johnson is poised to announce this shortly. As the BBC noted, many experts, MPs and figures in the Department of Business, energy and Industrial Strategy believe increased insulation has a big role to play.
Of course, there may be other developments that could be game changers for energy provision and consumption in due course, not least promising developments in the area of nuclear fusion. But for now, insulation could be the key battle in the drive to ensure that a new Cold War does not leave Britain’s homes feeling chilly as well.