New data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) highlight England’s slow progress on decarbonising home heating and improving homes’ energy efficiency, with the country going backwards on some measures. 

The figures show 68% of new Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) registrations in England are still heating with mains gas, with only 12% heating through electricity.

While the gap in median EPC rating between properties in the private rented sector (the worst performing tenure type for energy efficiency) and social housing has reduced, this is because the median efficiency rating of social housing has not changed since last year.

Analysis of the ONS figures by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), a cross-party think tank, noted that percentage of new dwellings using renewable energy (including heat pumps) for central heating has dropped from 0.2% last year to 0.17% this year – even as the government remains short of its target of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year. The numbers suggest that the UK’s aims of reaching net-zero by 2050 are in jeopardy, the SMF says.

The figures come as government grants to households for installing heat pumps – an essential part of the decarbonising our housing – have been extended in an effort to accelerate the UK’s faltering progress. However, recent SMF research on the barriers to taking up energy efficiency in homes suggested that cost is not the only obstacle that needs to be overcome – poor awareness and a lack of trust are also major issues.

Niamh O Regan, Researcher at Social Market Foundation, said: “What’s notable in this year’s release is that progress towards the decarbonisation and electrification of home heat is stalling and, in some cases, going backwards.

“The percentage of newbuild homes using renewable heating (including heat pumps) has dropped and the change in the existing stock is barely noticeable. By 2030 the UK is supposed to have reduced its emissions by 68%, and we cannot get there without addressing our heating. The new ONS figures show that we are well off track.

“While extending the grant for heat pumps is a step in the right direction, the government needs to go further to address consumers’ barriers to uptake – and redouble its commitment to hitting the milestones for achieving net zero 2050, so as to eliminate uncertainty.”