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How damn expensive is net zero going to be?

The UK needs to find more than 100,000 new plumbers, electricians and carpenters every year for the next three decades if the nation’s historic properties are to be preserved and upgraded, according to a report.

We need, err, 3 million builders? Or skilled trades perhaps? 10% of the entire workforce of 30 million?

The latest report claims that 105,000 new workers, who would focus solely on improving the sustainability credentials of buildings, will be needed every year for the next three decades if the UK is to meet its 2050 net-zero target. Almost a third of those needed are plumbers and electricians.

So net zero is going to require 10% of everything then? Because the labour of 10% of the workforce is 10% of everything, close enough at least. The claim here is that 10% of GDP, each year for 3 decades, must be devoted merely to lagging buildings. That’s about £6 trillion.

Bugger that, bring on the hotter summers.

The problem with all of this is that near everyone will be looking at this the other way around. 3 million jobs, ooh, that’s good! Except jobs are a cost not a benefit.

As well as reducing carbon emissions, retrofitting old buildings would boost the economy by £35 billion a year and support about 290,000 jobs, it is claimed.

Costs, costs……

37 thoughts on “How damn expensive is net zero going to be?”

  1. Well… All those heat pumps don’t install themselves, and all the rewiring and replumbing needed must of course be done by Accredited, Fully Unionised Craftsmen. And all the structural adaptations to buildings to even make the things function as advertised…

    And the underhand work done to “arrange a functional smoke channel, just in case..” by the smart and affluent..

    We’ve been there before in discussions here…

    So make that… 20-25% of GDP? To get a ballpark figure including the knock-on effects?

  2. Well, iirc the UN was saying 30 million *worldwide* rising to *60 million* by 2030. So if we run with that, the above looks orders of magnitude out as we’re considering only the UK. I guess they’re trying – in a fairly inarticulate manner – to say that 105k workers will be needed every year for 30 years, not an ever increasing number with a cliff at the end of it where they all get fired/fed to sharks/whatever.

    Iffy sums: 20 million buildings / 105k workers / 30 years = 6 buildings per worker per year.
    Or: wait 30 years, and those 3 million workers can do *all the properties in th UK* in a single year.

  3. A better insulated building is not a net zero building. Sheesh don’t these report writers ever read back what they’ve written. Might be net less, but it ain’t net zero. So target failed.
    Stupid damn thing having the target of course.

  4. I think it might be to replace those who are getting to the end of their working lives. Hence the high replacement rate.

  5. Nope. I read it. I was wrong. They want a small army of new people to work on this for the next 30 years. Or to put in another way most of their working lives will be spent on the quest for Net Zero whilst China emits more *additional* CO2 in year than we do in total.

    Talk about fruitless.

  6. We have been building tiny houses for decades designed to provide just enough space to be classed as habitable.

    I’m looking forward to a few demonstration conversions where all the rooms with outside walls are reduced in size as insulation is added giving fitted kitchens that no longer fit and bedrooms that are no longer big enough for things like beds. That insulation is doubly needed as without it radiators have to be 50% bigger as heat pumps push out water at 45C instead of 65C coming from gas boilers so radiators are much less effective. Space also needs to be found to put the heat pump on the patio, or heatpump stand as it will become. You also need space for the big heavy thermal store. We are not talking about a heating system powered by a small boiler that can be hidden away in a kitchen wall cupboard.

  7. There will also be the realisation that the modern fad of kocking down all the internal walls is hugely expensive in heating. I lived in an open plan house for six months and even though it was a highly insulated new-build house, it was *freezing* due to the heating having to fight to heat the entire house all at once, with no doors to close to keep the heat in. My brother’s just moved to a 1930s ex-council house and the first thing he did, at his wife’s insistance, was knock down all the internal walls.

  8. I’m constantly amazed that anyone believes this crap. CO2 is deadly??!! Yeah, get rid of it all and watch all the plant life die. Followed by all the animal life. Is that what Bill wants? Doesn’t he realise he’ll need servants? Or some friends with brains?
    When you’re old enough to remember the predictions – “Grow red wine vines in Newcastle!” “No snow by 2000, ever after!” it all seems a bit silly.

  9. The Meissen Bison


    Yes, due to the negative environmental impact of flame-throwers we shall need a minimum 10% year on year increase in your population while the net zero fantasists continue in the ascendent.

  10. Bloke in North Dorset

    I’ve been trying to get a plumber for about 3 months and its horrendously expensive so something is going wrong if we can’t get enough workers. Here’s a plan, I’ve given it about 5 minutes thought, which is about 5 more minutes than Spud and this crowd give theirs:

    Reduce school leaving age to 14 or at most 15.
    Reduce number of university places to 10%. Full grants for STEM everyone else pays their own way.
    Return former Polytechnics to what they were, somewhere to train those doing hands on jobs and trades.
    Remove all state jobs that have a job title that includes any of the following words in the job description: coordinator, diversity, inclusion, equity (TBC)


    Over on Judith Curry’s website.

    Feasibility for achieving a net zero economy for the U.S. by 2050: Executive summary

    The cost to 2050 will comfortably exceed $12T (trillion) for electrification projects and $35T for improving the energy efficiency of buildings, a work-force comparable in size to the health sector will be required for 30 years, including a doubling of the present number of electrical engineers, and the bill of specialist materials is of a size that for the USA alone is several times the global annual production of many key minerals…. The scale of this project suggests that a war footing and a command economy will be essential, as major cuts to other favoured forms of expenditure, such as health, education and defence, will be needed.

  12. @Lions – Lol. Yes we are being replaced to ensure there are enough workers to fill the state coffers to pay the promises they made to us when they took our taxes. It won’t work. The age pyramid has turned into a cylinder and now the pyramid is inverted in many countries.

    NetZero will be achieved by the rapidly reducing number of people in the West and China. The whole world will become African, Indian or Middle Eastern.

  13. I sneeze in threes

    There aren’t enough builders to replace, in a reasonable time, the cladding (that was perfectly legal and self evidently safe), until the politicians shit the bed over Grenfell, never mind all the other idiotic schemes the government now want to implement.

  14. They had better start with the planning departments, then, where the Ecoloonery department tells me my new windows must meet a certain specification, no exceptions, and the heritage wanker tells me that I can’t install that specification in my house in a conservation area. So I’m left with rotten frames and cracked single glazed windows and nowhere (legally) to go. They would rather watch their precious historic buildings rot than allow people to sensitively modernise.

  15. Bloke in North Dorset

    . The scale of this project suggests that a war footing and a command economy will be essential,
    That’s a goal, not a bug or feature.

  16. Actually China takes 2yrs to emit as much additional CO2 as we do in one year. Their increase in one year is 10x our decrease even before it gets painful and expensive to reduce emissions. We are a poor country pretending to be a rich one.

  17. The warmist cult is like a lobster pot. Easy to get trapped in, hard to get out. And mind your fingers. If you try to intervene you get a load of abuse.
    See also covid lethality, racism, etc.
    Meanwhile CO2 is increasing crop yields but not increasing temperature. But, like, facts don’t matter.

  18. Don’t like the arithmetic very much. The 100k/year accumulates to 3m in year 30. It isn’t 10% of the economy over the entire 30 years. And of course you’re not allowing for the retiring from the workforce of those currently engaged. That’s virtually all of them.

    You’re presuming these repurposed university grads would make competent plumbers. You any evidence for that? Maybe because there’s a manual element to these trades, people get the idea that any fool can do them. Far from it. They’re easily the equivalent of a lot of the professions. You don’t just go on some course for a few weeks & come out competent. I wouldn’t describe myself as a plumber, but I can hack a certain amount of it. That requires knowing about thousands of individual components, what they are, what they do, what other bits you need to make them work, how to fit them all together so they function in the way required. And have the strength & dexterity to do it. Put it this way: surgeons only have to repair bodies. Not design & assemble them. It’s why you can earn so much money in the trades.
    I don’t think you have an education system can turn out people like this. You get them despite the education system. And that goes right back to pre-secondary school. The kids don’t learn the way of thinking required when they’re starting out..

  19. Oh, & back to the arithmetic. 100k/year would be inducting a large fraction of those entering the workforce. You wouldn’t have those with the potential. So you’d be retraining people at all ages. The older, the shorter the period they’d be engaged.

  20. @Gus
    It can be done. I’ve done a lot of it. But it means having the windows made from scratch by a specialist. Likewise the installation. The cost is eye-watering. You’d certainly never recover it in energy saving.
    I’d recommend secondary glazing on the inside. But not necessarily those horrible plastic sliding jobbies. Many of the windows of the periods were originally fitted with inside shutters. Particularly with sashes. They’ll have generally have been removed over the years, if fitted. It’s not too expensive to have them made up. I’ve made them or had them made with glazed panels rather than solid. They look good & work very well. Some got done using stained glass which made them very attractive features.

  21. BiS: I think secondary school might be leaving it too late. I was doing electrical wiring stuff in primary school, picking it up from watching my Dad, by secondary school I was installing a light and power sockets in my half of my shared bedroom.

    Amazingly in retrospect, in the ’70s and early ’80s in our local equivalent of a County Fair, there were stalls that handed out leaflets on how to do basic household electrical and plumbing work; I probably picked up more knowledge on standard installations from them than from any formal training. The only thing I learned on my City & Guilds course was a useful way of stripping the sheath from Twin&Earth.

  22. tri-sneezer: I expect a lot of the cladding stuff is now being forced by the insurance companies. They don’t want to carry the risk of another Grenfell, however remote the possibility.

  23. NetZero will be achieved by the rapidly reducing number of people in the West and China. The whole world will become African, Indian or Middle Eastern.

    Europe and China; the US isn’t in too bad a position and can sustain itself. China and most of Europe literally cannot replace their populations. Other problems (food) than simple population demographics may take care of African and Middle Eastern futures; India can bumble along being India and feed itself. China is on a knife edge of nightmare collapse.

    Net Zero is impossible bollocks. The question is how much damage the political momentum of it costs us until it is jettisoned. The Russia-Ukraine war may have done us a favour by forcing brute reality into the equations.

  24. Bloke in North Dorset


    You’re presuming these repurposed university grads would make competent plumbers. You any evidence for that? Maybe because there’s a manual element to these trades, people get the idea that any fool can do them. Far from it. They’re easily the equivalent of a lot of the professions.

    Totally. I’ve had a go at quite a few of those trades and I’ve nothing but admiration for skilled workers.

    By limiting the number of university places to what it was in our day expectations can be set. I accept it won’t be easy because of the huge sense of entitlement, but if it means all the Last Generation, Friday for Future, Stop Oil and the rest of them have to learn to do something practical towards their goal they should see it as an opportunity.

    A few hard days graft in the pouring rain might also give them have an epiphany.

  25. @BiND
    I think you’d have to go back to pre-school. For a start, TV teaches tots to have short attention spans & to seek instant gratification. Then school does the same. It’s why they don’t like challenging environments when they get to uni, let alone work. It churns out vaguely functional people. But…
    I was thinking of a comparison of plumbing with coding. On the mental side, they’re not that dissimilar. But you can’t do plumbing with a cup of coffee at your elbow or WFH. You’ll be too cold or too hot & either way, definitely uncomfortable. And the constraints. You can’t work until midnight because nobody wants you in their house past 6 o’clock. You’ve a three day window to complete or you’re losing money & there’s no sand box. If it fails to work first time, you’ve flooded someone’s house & caused thousands in damage.
    The sort of people who can successfully do this sort of thing have survived their upbringing & education relatively unharmed.

  26. “We’ve scheduled your NHS dentist appointment for 4th March, 2025.”
    “Morning or afternoon?”
    “What does it matter?”
    “I’m getting a heat pump fitted in the morning.”

  27. @Bloke in North Dorset – “I’ve been trying to get a plumber for about 3 months…”

    Well, we can try blaming that on Brexit. Without free movement of people, some workers have gone back to EU countries (or gone to different ones where they feel more welcome).

  28. 3 word rebuttal to people saying that the shortage of plumbers is due to not centralising half your immigration policy to Brussels.
    Republic of Ireland.
    It’s up to the UK to fix this. Whatever solution it comes up with, it doesn’t have to persuade 27 other countries to fix it the same way before it can go ahead with its own plan or non-plan. That’s what Brexit means. You don’t get a kind of colonial say ‘cos you’re a net contributor in 27 other countries problems and they don’t get a say in how you fix your own.

  29. Bloke in North Dorset

    To qualify my statement: I’ve been waiting 3 months for the plumbers who advertise in our local magazine. Yesterday I engaged a business from local town and they’ll be here in 2 weeks, although 50% more costly.

    As to Brexit, anyone who wanted could have stayed, although I accept May’s version of a Brexiteer could have scared a few away. The biggest problem was Covid, why hang about in a foreign country when your not allowed to work? You might as well go home and be with family in your home town.

  30. Have just seen that anyone installing a Hydrogen boiler will have to have a 4 inch (100mm for the remainers) hole drilled into the wall, near the ceiling, in the same room as the boiler. A vented hole that cannot be closed. To lessen the possibilty of an explosion……….

  31. BiS – thank you. I like the idea of glazed shutters. I’ve had windows made up for the extension that were indeed jaw droppingly expensive. They look just like the originals and were eventually approved, but replacing the originals to match was a no because of the regs around glazing bar width vs. glazing thickness. Mind you. It was a 3 year planning battle conducted over email with 6 weeks between replies. Nobody from planning has visited site and they can’t be contacted by phone. The heritager is still WFH hiding from covid. It seems unlikely that they will inspect now the work is more or less done. Hmm.

  32. @Bloke in North Dorset – “As to Brexit, anyone who wanted could have stayed”

    Yes, but in the natural course of events, some who had come here would have left anyway only to be replaced by new people. Stopping new arrivals makes the flow become one-way. And if Covid made a larger than usual number of people go home, that would amplify the effect.

    Of course, there’s nothing stopping us having a sensible immigration policy and letting them all in – just as there was no obstacle to that before Brexit, but the racists and xenophobes who vigorously supported Brexit are still around and influential, pretending that they represent all Brexiteers.

  33. “Of course, there’s nothing stopping us having a sensible immigration policy and letting them all in – just as there was no obstacle to that before Brexit, but the racists and xenophobes who vigorously supported Brexit are still around and influential, pretending that they represent all Brexiteers.”

    I think the workers whose wages have gone up quite a bit since the flow of cheap European labour was stopped might beg to differ……its the typical selfishness of middle class arseholes that decrees because they can’t get a cheap plumber (to do the work they are incapable of doing themselves naturally, but who they still look down on as their social inferiors) the working classes must have their livelihoods ground into the dirt. Well maybe eventually the middle classes will cotton on that sending their Nice But Dim offspring to ‘Uni’ to study ‘media’ or ‘marketing’ might be better replaced with an apprenticeship to learn bricklaying or electrical installation skills instead.

  34. @Jim

    A union might keep the wages of its members artificially high at the expense of their employer’s customers who have to pay higher prices. This is seen as a bad thing. Why should it be different for another artifical barrier to lower prices? In a free market, businesses serve their customers, not their employees.

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