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Grant Shapps: We will green up to 25 million homes

Next month world leaders will gather in Copenhagen to thrash out a deal to tackle climate change.

And reaching agreement at this UN summit will be key to addressing one of the defining challenges of our Century.

But the hard work isn't just setting those targets...

It's reaching them!

Each country will have to set their own priorities to reduce emissions... 

  • Investment in renewables...
  • Less burning of fossil fuels...
  • More recycling... 
  • Emissions trading and carbon caps...
  • The list is more or less endless...

And here in the UK, we'll need to look closer to home.

That's because an astonishing 27 per cent of all our carbon emissions actually come from the homes we all live in today.

And armed with this killer Co2 stat, Ministers have long since proclaimed their intention to slash the environmental footprint of all new homes.

They've put in place ambitious targets to ensure that all modern homes built from 2016 are Zero Carbon.

And even though - three years after that announcement - the exact definition remains a bit of a mystery, we can and do all agree that the intention is good.

Indeed the extraordinary work being done here at the Building Research Establishment provides us with a glimpse of a future sustainable world.

So, problem solved then...?

Well not exactly.

You see the trouble is that up to 80% of the homes we'll be living in halfway through this century are already here today.

At current rates it would take 1,000 years to replace all the existing stock.

So while I welcome and enthusiastically endorse the concept of building all new homes at zero carbon...

... There remains a simple - and once again - inconvenient truth...

If we are to meet our nation's carbon pledge - an 80% reduction in Co2 by 2050 - then we'd better start tackle our existing homes right now.

There are 25 million of them... standing on every street... in every part of Britain.

And despite the fact that greening-up these homes holds the key to meeting our legally binding carbon reduction targets - so far they've been largely ignored.

It's as if Ministers have been so mesmerised by house building targets... Code Level 6... Zero Carbon... 2016...and...

... That they've almost entirely forgotten about the homes which are already here to stay.

So today I want to let you know precisely what a Conservative government will do, if we win next year's election.

Our aim is to green up every existing home in Britain.

Time is against us, so a Conservative government will act decisively.

As my colleague Greg Clark has described; every household in this country will be entitled to a package of energy improvements using an allowance of up to £6,500.

Utilities companies... charities... social landlords will improve your home at no cost to you, recouping the money through the difference in energy bills.

  • Healthy competition in retro-fits will create 70,000 new jobs and a £2.5bn marketplace.
  • Consumers save money.
  • And most importantly; 9.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions are avoided.

So everyone gains by improving energy efficiency and lowering bills.

As the Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council, Paul King, said "The Green Deal is a big step in the right direction."

This type of scheme - which allows the work to be paid for from energy bill savings - is a no-brainer.

Yet sadly, a great scheme doesn't necessarily equate to great take-up.

So today I want to go further and ensure that the opportunity is available to everyone.

Imagine if you could walk into your favourite store, buy some clothes or do your weekly shop...

... And then at the checkout, as you hand over your Clubcard; the cashier offers you the prospect of permanently lower utility bills.

There's nothing to pay, now or even later.

Your home will be retrofitted and all you'll notice is that it costs you less to heat and power it.

Now, unless you literally enjoy burning money, you're gonna love the Green Deal.

Behind the scenes this retailer is working with the banking sector to fund the £6,500; resulting in home improvements like energy-efficient lighting... modern boilers... cavity and loft insulation.

They make their money back through a 25 year investment.

But all you'll see is lower bills... with zero upfront cost.

That's great news for anyone, but for someone in fuel poverty it could actually transform their lives.

Under a Conservative government you won't have to imagine this scheme, because the likes of Marks & Spencer and Tesco are already interested.

And with a deal this good, more providers of all types will want to get in on the act.

So in future you'll be able to pick-up your groceries and green-up your home - all at the same time.

But living a greener life isn't just about the physical changes you can make to your home.

It's about how you live in it too.

Even without retrofitting our properties, there are plenty of things we can do to influence our energy consumption behaviour...

For example, last year I installed a small device which sits on the window sill in our kitchen and constantly reports how much electricity we're using as a household.

This particular energy monitor is called a Wattson and it expresses itself £'s Sterling.

Switch everything off and worryingly we're still spending about £700 per annum on powering our home.

That's just the fridge, the freezer, those TVs and chargers which all prefer to go on standby - rather than off.

Now stick the kettle and toaster on for a cuppa and sandwich and what's this... that clever little Wattson is telling me that our electricity bill could hit £7,000 per annum!

Now fortunately that would only happen if we kept the kettle on and toast burning 24/7 for an entire year.

But I can tell you this... it really does make you think.

Now rather than filling the kettle to the top, we only boil the water we need.

Meanwhile, the kids spend their time hunting round the house searching out left on lights and Nintendo DS's which have long since reached their full charge but are still plugged into the mains.

This information has really altered habits.

For the first time we're aware of the cost of leaving Televisions or Computer Monitors switched on or even on standby.

But nowadays, it isn't even as if cutting power at source is a hassle...

With another remote control gadget you can easily switch off a 13amp plug...

... meaning that you don't even need to move from your favourite armchair when a Party Political Broadcast comes on.

Now, back in May the government followed our lead and set out plans to fit sophisticated smart-meters in every home by 2020; at a cost of some £7bn. 

We think Ministers need to be more ambitious and that we could achieve this smart-meter roll-out significantly faster.

In the long-term this more complex equipment will also allow energy companies to read your meter remotely and better organise the national grid.

But in the meantime and for as little as 25 quid households could already experience many of the benefits using a low-cost monitor which takes just seconds to install.

Simple. Practical. And available to all.

Now, as you'll already know, I'm not a fan of Home Information Packs.

They restrict housing supply and add to the costs of selling your home.

HIPs will therefore be history under an incoming Conservative government.

On the other hand, I am anxious to see Energy Performance Certificates not only survive, but thrive!

So liberated from the dead-weight of HIPs, the EPCs will stand alone as a document informing you about the energy credentials of your own home.

3.5m EPCs have been churned out so far, but sadly very few have been acted upon.

But rather than being just another piece of paper... another stretch of red-tape, I want the EPC to be a catalyst for an environmental revolution.

So today I want to tell you about some changes to the way that EPCs will operate under a Conservative Government.

In future once an EPC is completed homeowners will automatically be provided with bespoke information about the changes that could be made to their home today in order to improve energy efficiency tomorrow.

But rather than leaving it there, you'll also be informed about the immediate changes that can be made to your home using our Green Deal.

Or to put it another way.

You'll be offered an instant route to lower utility bills from day one, simply by ticking a box on your EPC to say yes, let's do it!

In the background the consumer Green Deal will kick in.

Using the EPC as a launch pad, a provider will green up your home and the only thing you'll notice is reduced energy bills and a better EPC rating after the work is done.

Zero cost to the homeowner and a huge saving for the planet.

Slashing the 27% of carbon currently emitted from our homes is a big ask.

  • We'll need to modify millions of properties.
  • We'll need homeowners to have quick and easy access to the cost of their energy usage.
  • And we need to act quickly.
  • The Green Deal enables a combination of the physical and the behavioural changes needed to make a big difference straight away.

It removes barriers currently preventing a domestic green revolution.

It gives us our best chance of meeting our obligations under the Climate Change Act.

As we head towards the Copenhagen summit the Conservative Party understands that the solution to the global challenge of climate change truly begins at home.

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