Government scraps zero carbon homes plans

Published:  13 July, 2015

The government's decision to scrap the 2016 increase in newbuild energy efficiency standards is likely to lead to fuel bill increases, the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) has said.

As part of the government's 'Productivity Plan', published on 10 July, it announced it 'did not intend to proceed' with the proposed 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards. Instead, the document said it would 'keep energy efficiency standards under review'.

The Zero Carbon Homes policy was originally conceived in 2006 to ensure that all newbuild homes in the UK were zero carbon by 2016.

The Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme for housebuilders to offset newbuild carbon emissions by delivering a like-for-like contribution on another site is also being abandoned.

Dave Sowden, chief executive officer of the SEA, said: "The government's commitment to zero carbon homes was intended to create a pathway to zero carbon buildings. Albeit ambitious, this was an achievable target that industry had the ability to deliver if the government had ever provided certainty. This failure to set a long-term vision for energy efficiency in buildings will result in higher fuel bills for consumers and also a huge bill for the future governments dealing with retrofit improvements to poorly functioning buildings."

Mr Sowden says this is the latest in a long line of government carbon emission reduction policies.

"[We were] disappointed by the Part L amendments implemented in April 2014 which committed to only a 6% improvement in new domestic homes on 2010 carbon compliance. This lower option was used instead of the preferred 26% improvement, the halfway point to zero carbon homes in 2016.

"[We were] disappointed in June 2014, when the 2016 target was changed to reduce emissions by 44% on 2006 levels – actually only the same as the halfway point previously referred to – and allowing developers to ‘make up’ the rest of the carbon reductions through Allowable Solutions," said Mr Sowden.

Meanwhile, the British Property Federation (BPF) put pressure on the government to affirm whether the decision not to proceed with the Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme will also apply to non-domestic buildings.

The Federation emphasised the importance of ensuring the commercial real estate industry is given advance notice of changes to the building standards it is expected to meet, in order to ensure uncertainty does not deter vital investment in the built environment.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the BPF, said: "Today’s abandonment of the allowable solutions mechanism is short-sighted with respect to both the government's long-term carbon budgets and the European Union's obligations for nearly-zero energy buildings from 2020.

"Keeping the on-site energy efficiency regulations ‘under review’, with no discernible end in sight, undermines the regulatory certainty that industry requires.

"It is imperative that we tackle housing shortages, but there is equally a need to manage the security of energy supplies and to diversify our energy mix."

Image courtesy of Shutterstock/ Christian Delbert

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