Rethinking low carbon retrofit

What’s needed to get the home-owner low carbon retrofit market going

12 July 2017

Everyone in the energy sector has been thinking about how to stimulate home-owners to upgrade their homes to low carbon standards – but we've all been thinking wrong. As a result, there has been nothing new from government for over two years, and plenty of missed opportunities to get on with transforming the market, building from local level.

In an attempt to change this, CSE’s chief executive Simon Roberts has put together a short presentation. It captures our thoughts about:

  • What we’ve all been getting wrong and why this has paralysed policy-making.
  • How we need to think about the challenge instead.
  • What this leads to in terms of policies and programmes (sneak preview: locally focussed market orchestration).
  • How much this might cost (spoiler alert: less than you might think).

You can download the presentation here.

Simon explains our starting point: “Policy-makers seem to have become paralysed by feeling they need to sort out how to get the whole housing stock up to standard before they do anything. But that doesn’t make sense, particularly if there’s no serious money to throw at the problem.

“What makes more sense is to focus on how to get the next million home-owners who are already keen to take action actually to take that action. And that relies on them being able to get a quote from a builder they feel they can trust (who will tend, therefore, to be a local company recommended by someone they know).

“But the builder won’t give a quote if they are already busy and making good money – which the good ones are (though probably not on low carbon work like solid wall insulation). And they won’t do the homework to enable them to give that quote if they don’t think it’s a growing market. After all, if you have all the work you need and you're making a decent living, why spend time getting your head round the technologies and techniques involved, the risks and how they are managed, and how to quote so you can make a decent margin?”

CSE’s answer, outlined in more detail in the presentation, lies in local initiatives to orchestrate both home-owner demand and building-trade supply at local level.

“We reckon there are probably a million home-owners in the UK who already believe in the need to act, want to take action and can fund the improvements themselves," continues Simon. "But they won’t act without a builder they can trust. So let’s focus on getting that sorted – and that needs to happen locally.

“If we can get that sorted, low carbon retrofit will start to become much more normal and local supply chains will become stronger. That will make it easier in future to stimulate new demand and to create the political space for tougher policies in the next decade that ensure all homes come up to standard.”

You can download the presentation here.

The problem of expanding the market for solid wall insulation was explored in an episode of Radio 4’s Costing the Earth ‘Insulation for the Nation’ in April on which Simon Roberts was a guest. Listen again at

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