Skip navigation
The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Call for ‘Tell Sid’ campaign on making homes fit for net zero, as report finds public hungry for information

Demand across Britain for grants and investment to retrofit homes, with new advertising drive to explain technology needed 

A new ‘Tell Sid’ style campaign is needed to raise awareness of home insulation and low-carbon heating needed to reach net zero, and to advertise a bold new programme of cash help to households, a report by IPPR finds today.  

The campaign, intended to be as effective as the 1980s push for households to invest in privatised gas shares, would explain how to access public grants and zero-interest loans to lower the carbon emissions from heating the UK’s homes. Better insulation and new heating technologies would also lower energy bills and protect households from the rising price of gas. 

According to YouGov polling commissioned for the report, 58 per cent of the British public have either never heard of a heat pump (22 per cent) – the electrified low-carbon heating technology that will be needed by most UK homes in a net zero world – or know almost nothing about them (36 per cent). 

Correspondingly, two thirds of the public (65 per cent) support a new national information campaign to raise awareness of the technologies. A large majority support public grants of £7,500 (62 per cent) and zero-interest loans (61 per cent) with government helping to pay up to half of the loan, provided any additional costs of installing insulation and heat pumps are similar to, or less than, the cost of a gas boiler. 

A further 66 per cent back full grants for low-income households struggling to keep their homes warm. 

The report also notes how rapidly the UK needs to scale up its deployment of insulation and heat pumps to keep pace with its net zero targets. It says the UK is trailing far behind France, Germany and Italy in its installation of heat pumps. Last year, the UK only installed 6 per cent of the new heat pumps and less than 2 per cent of new solid wall insulation needed each year by 2028. 

As the government prepares to unveil its long-delayed plans for decarbonising the UK’s homes, expected next week, these findings and recommendations form part of a comprehensive retrofit action plan set out in the new IPPR report. The research sets out core pillars for the plan with key recommendations that include: 

  • Standards: Phase out the sale of new oil boilers by 2028 and gas boilers by 2033, and introduce minimum energy performance standards (EPC rating C) by 2028 for private rented homes, and by 2030 for homeowners.

  • Skills: Establish a Green Training Fund with £160 million per year until 2028, to support people to acquire the skills needed for retrofitting, and commit to high-quality job standards.

  • Cash: Introduce a one-stop shop, known as ‘GreenGO’, where people can access financial support for the changeover, backed by up to £18 billion in public funding over the next four years. It would offer: 
    Full grants for ‘fuel poor’ homes, to cover cost of fitting new insulation and low-carbon heating (at an average estimated cost of £12,000 per home). 
    Grants up to £7,500 for other homes, until 2025, including additional measures such as new water tanks and radiators. The average remaining cost for householders would be comparable to the price of a high-end gas boiler. 
    - Zero interest loans up to £7,000 from 2025, with repayment subsidies depending on the energy efficiency achieved (used successfully in Germany); and new private financing solutions such as green mortgages that would allow homeowners to add retrofit costs to their loans, in return for lower interest rates.

  • Communications: Launch a national advertising campaign to raise households’ awareness, understanding and enthusiasm for upgraded insulation and low-carbon heating and the financial support available through the GreenGO scheme, alongside a properly resourced energy advice service (online and by phone) in England, and increased capacity for services in Scotland and Wales. 

In the light of the current gas price crisis, IPPR calls for the government to pause its plan to shift environmental costs from electricity to gas bills. Instead of raising gas bills further, it says the costs should be recovered through general taxation, which would lower electricity bills in a fairer way. 

The UK Energy Research Centre estimates this reform could result in an overall saving for 70 per cent of homes as environmental costs would be levied more fairly through income, while the wealthiest households would face net increases of just 0.35 per cent of household income per year. 

In addition, IPPR recommends introducing a new carbon tax from 2030 to encourage the shift from gas boilers, so long as upfront costs of low-carbon heating alternatives are no more expensive than a new boiler. 

Joshua Emden, IPPR research fellow and lead author of the report, said: 

“Decarbonising our heating will be disruptive. If we’re going to get retrofitting right, with all the benefits it brings, then the public are crystal clear that they need more accessible, reliable information, they need to be able to trust both the technology and the competence of the installation, and they need financial support with upfront costs.  

“Whether it’s the move from town gas to natural gas in the 1960s and 70s or the ‘Tell Sid’ campaign advertising British Gas shares in the 1980s, we’ve done this kind of large-scale programme before. Now we need a new national campaign to bring us into the next era for home heating.” 

Lesley Rankin, IPPR researcher and co-author of the report, said: 

“While UK policy falters, policies in other European countries are having a more positive impact. France, Germany and Italy’s ambitious policies to support households – a mix of grants, tax credits and loans with repayment subsidies – have led them to become the three largest heat pump markets in Europe in 2020.  

“In contrast, over the same year, the UK installed just over a quarter of the number of heat pumps in Germany, a sixth of the number in Italy, and a tenth of the number in France.” 

Luke Murphy, IPPR associate director and head of its Environmental Justice Commission, said: 

“With gas prices and energy bills spiralling, some of the leakiest homes in Europe and the climate crisis looming ever larger,  we desperately need a national mission to upgrade the UK’s homes. 

“What’s more, the public fully support greater government investment, grants for all households to help upgrade their homes, and a national advertising campaign so everyone knows both what they need to do, and how to get the support to do it. 

“Now, as well as a new ‘Tell Sid’ campaign, Boris Johnson must urgently ‘Tell Rishi’ to stump up the cash so that the UK can get on with the job of delivering net zero, while making the nation’s homes warmer and more affordable.” 

ENDS 

Joshua Emden and Luke Murphy are available for interview  

CONTACT

Robin Harvey, Digital and Media Officer: 07779 204798 [email protected]

David Wastell, Head of News and Communications: 07921 403651 [email protected]  

NOTES TO EDITORS 

  1. The IPPR paper, Pump up the volume: A comprehensive plan to decarbonise the UK’s homes by Joshua Emden and Lesley Rankin, will be published at 0001 on Saturday October 16. It will be available for download at: http://www.ippr.org/research/publications/pump-up-the-volume 

  2. Advance copies of the report are available under embargo on request 

  3. Polling figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov plc. Total sample size was 1,683 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between September 29-30, 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). 

  4. The specific polling questions on public information campaigns, grants and zero-interest loans are shared below:
    a) The question asked about support for: A national information campaign about what insulation and low-carbon heating households may need in future that includes a free over-the-phone energy advice service
    b) The question asked about support for: A grant of £7,500 for insulation and heat pumps if any additional costs such as new radiators were similar to, or less than, that of a gas boiler
    c) The question asked about support for: A zero-interest loan for insulation and heat pumps with the government helping to pay up to 50 per cent of the loan. Any additional costs such as new radiators would again be similar to, or less than, a gas boiler

  5. Household carbon emissions make up 13 per cent of the UK total.

  6. Heat pumps operate by using a refrigerant to transfer heat from outside a property, even in cold weather, into its interior, on similar principles to a domestic fridge.

  7. Previous IPPR reports on this subject include: 
    All hands to the pumps: A home improvement plan for England 
    https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/all-hands-to-the-pump 
    and Fairness and opportunity: A people-powered plan for the green transition https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/fairness-and-opportunity

  8. IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence. www.ippr.org