Domestic energy efficiency: understanding barriers to a nationwide roll out

The Sustainable Homes and Building Coalition, made up of Worcester Bosch, NatWest, British Gas, and Citizens Advice, has completed a process of upgrading properties across the UK in their Home Improvement Pilot with the results detailed in the coalition’s third report, entitled Home is Where the Heat Is: Outcomes Report.

Domestic energy efficiency: understanding barriers to a nationwide roll out

Delivered in parliament last month, the report covers the experiences of real customers on their home improvement journeys.

The initial ‘Home is Where the Heat is’ report was released ahead of COP26 in 2021 and high energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis have made the issues even more pressing since then, highlighting the need for consistent long-term policy frameworks coupled with new forms of collaboration across the public and private sectors.

The pilot programme

The pilot demonstrates how rolling out energy efficiency across the UK could help bolster energy security and deliver positive impacts for consumers from a cost, carbon, and comfort perspective.

The report also sets out the growth opportunities for UK business in the energy efficiency sector, and how business and government can work together to facilitate a nationwide rollout of energy efficiency measures.

Designed to identify the key blockers, the programme has, in total, retrofitted nine households located in Pontypool, London, Kent, Swansea, Surrey, Tyne and Wear, Liverpool, and two properties in Merseyside, at no cost to the household/homeowners through a £250,000 funding pot. In return for the funding, provided by NatWest, British Gas, and Worcester Bosch, the households agreed to share their experience of the process, with their thoughts and comments detailed in the report.


Over the past two years, the coalition has worked to move the conversation around energy efficiency from the conceptual world to the real world. By studying the rollout of home improvement upgrades on a case-by-case basis, the coalition has uncovered valuable insights.

  1. Whilst a home improvement process does involve disruption, consumers feel it is immediately worth the effort, although cost remains the main upfront barrier
  2. Each consumer’s journey will be different and, due to the variety in the UK’s housing stock, some will require bespoke solutions
  3. Planning restrictions can make home improvement projects complicated, and local councils also need to raise their awareness of home improvement measures.

Action on energy efficiency is critical to improving the UK’s energy security, reducing the amount of energy needed to power UK homes, as well as reducing pressure on consumers from high energy bills.

There are also clear growth opportunities for policymakers and UK business to develop a substantial supply chain for the sector.

The challenges

The results of the pilot also shed light on some of the main challenges facing a national rollout of energy efficiency measures.

  1. The supply chain – which needs to be developed further
  2. The importance of improving social housing across the UK – not only to reduce energy costs, but also to stimulate scale in the market
  3. The need to address the private rented sector – where tenants are often not in control of energy efficiency improvements.

Detailed analysis

Over the coming year, the coalition will carefully monitor the impacts of the home improvements to determine the exact benefits to each household, analysing how much consumers can expect to save on their bills, as well as looking at reductions in carbon emissions and how comfortable each household is – the coalition will report on these in 2024.

Importantly, the coalition is focused on keeping the customer experience central, maintaining that consumers must always be at the heart of the conversation, as it is real people, and their families, that will have to undergo a disruptive, albeit ultimately beneficial, home improvement process.

Gillian Cooper, Head of Energy Policy at Citizens Advice said: “Looking at energy costs that UK consumers are faced with, and the millions affected by fuel poverty, throws the benefits of improving homes into stark relief, a fact only backed up by these Home Improvement Pilots.

“We welcome the results and hope more can be done to support consumers up and down our country, especially in the private rented and social housing sector.”

Describing energy efficiency upgrades as ‘key to improving energy security and reducing financial burden for consumers’ Lloyd Cochrane, Head of Mortgages at NatWest, said: “Our Pilot has shown that not only are energy efficiency upgrades desirable, but with increased collaboration between Government and business they are achievable, as well.”

Carl Arntzen, CEO of Worcester Bosch, noted lack of readiness in the supply chain but felt that ‘more action to stimulate demand will help overcome many of the barriers’ urging immediate action to ‘make this the decade of delivery’.