Call for ‘Tell Sid’ campaign to make homes fit for net zero

A think tank report says a ‘Tell Sid’-style campaign is needed to explain the technology behind home insulation and low-carbon heating, and advertise a new programme of cash to retrofit homes.

Tell Sid is a reference to a highly effective ad campaign from the 1980s. A similar campaign today would help the public access public grants and zero-interest loans to lower carbon emissions from UK homes, says the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)

The report – Pump up the Volume: A comprehensive plan to decarbonise the UK’s homes – adds that the public are hungry for information, but know little about new heating technologies or how to fund them.

According to YouGov polling commissioned for the report, a total of 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 unveils its long-delayed plans for decarbonising the UK’s homes, 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. This 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 is calling 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.

The IPPR paper is available for download at

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+).

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