Without the zero carbon homes standard can we achieve carbon reduction?

25th Oct 2016

 

In December 2006, the UK Government announced that all new homes would be ‘zero carbon’ from 2016. This was a ground breaking commitment that has had an incredibly important influence on the house building industry, and the supply chain.

In July 2015 Chancellor George Osborne announced that he is dropping the zero carbon homes target. Some political toing and froing later and it seems like the government have turned their backs on building better, more efficient homes for the future.

House building remains a top priority with Government plans to fast track the building of new homes, but at what cost? We need more housing but there is no justification for building homes with a permanent legacy of energy bills being higher than they need to be.

The UK has some very old inefficient housing stock and is subsequently faced with the challenge of retrofitting our existing homes and buildings to enable us to live and work more sustainably. We know that this retrofit programme is key to achieving our ambitious carbon reduction targets, and so it seems illogical to add to the numbers of homes that require retrofitting.

The Government know that they should be putting long term plans in place to improve our homes now and in the future, so why aren’t they?

In April 2016 the UK signed the Paris Climate Deal, making a global commitment to reduce our carbon emissions. Achieving these targets involves our homes and buildings becoming more energy efficient. Without the zero carbon homes target to drive this forward I fear that  Other policies will be needed, which will cost the consumer more. However all is not lost. Government policy is not the only means to drive through changes for the greater good.

Research based consultancy BRE have recently unveiled a voluntary sustainability standard for new homes that allows developers to differentiate their product in the marketplace by recognising performance beyond minimum regulation, and provide increased choice for the consumer.

Local decisions by council leaders and Mayors to demand higher energy efficiency specification for the homes and buildings being built in their area could also offset the lack of national targets.

Improving the energy efficiency of UK homes is vital if we are to reduce carbon emissions and keep bills down. But on it’s own that won’t be enough.

Energy supply is also crucial, which is why we must continue to investigate the role that ‘green gas’ has to play. Decarbonising the gas flowing through the grid- which currently delivers gas into the homes of 85% of the UK population- is central to carbon reduction.

Industry is already working on a range of ‘green gas’ solutions, including biomethane, BioSNG and hydrogen. All of these offer the potential to decarbonise heat, affordably and without the need for homeowners to change their heating systems. The existing gas grid is a major but hidden asset that we need to exploit to  use to help achieve our climate change obligations.