CERT and the no brainer of home insulation

The United Kingdom’s energy companies, that virtual monopoly of supply of gas and electricity, are, as part of the various climate change emission reduction targets, obliged to carry out certain measures to reduce the demand for energy from fossil fuel sources. These obligations are known as the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target. It is an ill fitting name, as the “target” is a legal obligation to carry out so many measures, not to reduce carbon emissions but to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. At the risk of being called a pendant, I would prefer that the obligation was more accurately named, but I suppose “CERT” is an easy to remember acronym, even if it is confusing.

CERT is administered by the Energy Watchdog, OFGEM – the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets. There have been various phases of CERT.A few years ago you may remember being flooded with free compact fluorescent lamps. You might well have a few tucked away in a drawer somewhere. These were handed out as part of the CERT measures. Fortunately compact fluorescent bulbs are being phased out and will no longer count as a measure for CERT.

The CERT scheme is not cheap. From 2008 until 2012 the total paid by the energy companies under CERT will be £5.5 billion. 68% of the measures must be spent on insulating homes, and vulnerable and low income households must constitute at least 40% of the measures with very poor vulnerable people at risk of falling into fuel poverty receiving free CERT measures.

Up to and including the first three months of 2011 more than two million homes have got loft insulation and 1.5 million got cavity wall insulation. Nearly 40,000 homes got solid wall insulation and 2.25 million smart meters (called behavioural real time displays) were fitted and 28,000 home energy advice packages issued. A few thousand heat pumps and thermal solar systems were installed under certain. So far the CFLs total that has counted towards CERT is more than 270 million including another 300,000 handed out in the first three months of 2011. That means that each home should have on average have 21 CFLs but it is clear that many of the free giveaways are not being installed. Ofgem have now required, from this year, that the energy companies prove installation of CFLs before they count towards their CERT obligations.

The most important CERT measure is insulation. In fact for most UK homes getting the home insulated is a no brainer, as the financial savings are worthwhile and will rapidly pay for themselves. UK homes are still much more badly insulated that homes in most other European Union nations, but will all insulation, even insulation given away free, there are a number of problems.

First for most householders it means that dreaded task of clearing out the loft, with all the accumulated stuff which most people store there. That task means a number of trips to the recycling centre and making some decisions about which detritus of your life you no longer really need.

Secondly every bit of work you do in your home causes inconvenience, dust and dirt. Thirdly, many people do not know just how much money they can save in a well insulated home.

There are plenty of homes that require installation. There is a case for mandating the insulation of all buildings, in so far as it is possible, but that would be regarded by some as draconian and imposing a heavy burden on households. However un-insulated homes place a heavy burden on the environment.

It seems to me that energy pricing is in part responsible for the very low take up of home insulation and of microgeneration. There are hundreds of price tariffs for you gas and electricity but all of them are based upon a declining cost per kWh the more energy you consume. If that pricing was reversed and people paid more per unit of energy as they consume more we would all find the no brainer of home insulation more than a no brainer; there would be a positive financial penalty if you chose not to insulate your home.

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