Recovery begins at home – let’s build back better

Restarting the economy, re-skilling and re-employing our tradespeople, creating homes fit for the future, not to mention lowering the cost of living and easing the burden on our NHS: five positive outcomes from one solution for a post-COVID recovery.

There’s little joy to be found in unproven technologies years from general use, or individual big-ticket investments that only benefit one area of the country while the rest struggles.

What we need are ‘shovel ready’ projects, ready to go right now, that support at-risk job markets and the most vulnerable areas of our country, delivering immediate work for qualified people stuck on furlough, and developing skills for a new generation of workers who will be valued for years to come.

There can be no doubt upgrading the UK’s homes and buildings is the best possible way for a green economic recovery; it delivers more jobs, more economic stimulus – quicker and with more tangible impacts– as well as other benefits including better health and wellbeing and lower energy bills. It will also spread those benefits across the country in the areas that need it the most.

Supply chains are ready to go now and because the construction industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic with a 16.5% drop in employment, such a move would support many small businesses across Britain.

Whilst we await further details from Government, we are encouraged by today’s reports of a commitment to help businesses to retain staff and unfurlough employees more quickly. A comprehensive programme to renovate all homes to a decent standard by 2030 could support 150,000 jobs across all regions of the UK, with up to 40,000 jobs in the first two years. That would have a bigger impact on already low-income areas where nearly half of all at-risk jobs are in occupations earning less than £10 an hour.

Take Blackpool for instance, where unemployment is almost three times the national average and its housing is some of the least efficient in the country, with 75% of properties at EPC level D or below.

Upgrading those homes can save people around £270 a year on their energy bills – that’s the equivalent of taking 2p in the £ off income tax rates for average earners.

Similarly in Bolsover where 24% of the local workforce are skilled trades, the highest in the country, and 73% of homes rated EPC D or lower. As demand for plumbers, window fitters and roofers falls due to disruption from the pandemic, investment in energy efficiency could generate new types of building projects, rapidly putting tradespeople back to work.

A national focus on upgrading our homes could also significantly reduce pressure on the NHS at a time when every little helps. Government figures show the current poor state of British homes costs the NHS more than £1.4bn a year.

Investing in doing up our own home is something we can all relate to – it will make us happier, healthier, and better off. Government investment in energy efficiency could drastically improve the state of our housing stock, create hundreds of jobs in the area and stimulate spending on local goods and services.

We already know what value this brings. At E.ON we’ve already installed about 1.4m measures in homes across Britain and we’ve seen first-hand how it has improved our customers’ lives.

We have the people, we have the skills, we have the need, and we have the capability to act now. 

Written by Michael Lewis

Michael joined E.ON UK as CEO in 2017, having worked in the energy industry for over 25 years. He joined Powergen in 1993, originally working in technical and environmental roles, before moving into corporate strategy and development. Following E.ON’s acquisition of Powergen in 2002, he moved to E.ON’s headquarters in Düsseldorf as Vice President Corporate Development. In 2007, Michael was appointed Managing Director for Europe on the Board of E.ON Climate and Renewables, before becoming Chief Operating Officer in 2012 and then CEO of E.ON Climate and Renewables in 2015. Michael is a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (FIMechE).