First, those already in the fuel poverty trap must be safeguarded, and the only sensible long-term way to do this is to tackle the problem at source and radically upgrade the thermal efficiency of the housing stock. To put this in perspective, the Government has a measure of insulation level called the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP). The present building regulations stipulate a minimum standard of SAP 75 for new homes. The average for England is 35, but a considerable number fall below SAP 10, with some as low as SAP -25. This is a scandal which no government should be allowed to live with.
The second point is that the switch to renewable sources of energy must not be left to market forces. The most straightforward way for the Government to advance the fortunes of renewables would be to require the energy companies to provide a proportion of their output from renewables, to increase annually according to a set scale. This could be written in to the terms of reference for the incoming regulator. If fossil fuels carry the pollution tax alluded to by Michael Meacher, then renewable energy would rapidly become the preferred option.
Professor PETER F SMITH
Sustainable Futures Committee
Royal Institute of British Architects