What policies can we expect from the ‘new’ government?

5th Jun 2017

 

The election is over, and the ‘new’ government has been formed………oh no, sorry, that was what I was expecting to write! Followed by a synopsis of the policy changes the industry can expect over the coming months and years. Now, following June’s election result I’m not sure at the time of writing, that anyone can predict what will happen next. That said, where there is a hung parliament I can’t see much happening that is too radical or different from where we are now.

The downside to that is that at a time when industry is seeking consensus and stability, we are unlikely to get either.

However, at the time of writing this, it looks very likely that the Conservatives- together with the DUP will have an 8 seat majority, and with that, we can expect two things. Firstly; Rt Hon Greg Clark MP is still in place as the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, (BEIS), so we have some consistency there and the work streams HHIC were working on with BEIS, pre-election, can hopefully be resumed once the reshuffle is completed.

The Domestic Heat Strategy Group- formed in 2015- is already making real headway into developing effective policy for the decarbonisation of heat. The group has continued to meet regularly despite all of the political uncertainty. This is an encouraging indication that Government remain committed to both working with industry and designing heat policy that works.

The Domestic Heat Strategy Group hascreated two sub working groups to look at specific topics. They are; the household energy committee, which is looking at EPCs and the possibility of this becoming the energy efficiency ‘currency’ for the home, and the retro label group, which delivered the ‘Retro Boiler Label- retrospective energy labelling of old inefficient non condensing boilers.

Secondly, the Conservative manifesto contained two points of significant interest to the heating industry, which we hope are retained

“In regards to the future energy relationship with the European Union, the Manifesto states that: “After we have left the European Union, we will form our energy policy based not on the way energy is generated but on the ends we desire”.

The ‘ends’ we desire is; secure, affordable and sustainable energy. With over 80% of homes connected to the gas grid. The only sensible, cost effective and deliverable solution to deliver the ends we desire is by decarbonising heat and we do that by ‘greening’ our gas. It can be done- it is already, on a small scale across the country – and it can be delivered effectively.

Estimates by National Grid in their paper “The Future of Gas” shows that around 50% of energy demand for heat could be met by biogases by 2050. This in effect could provide renewable heat to all homes on the gas grid without any action required by the home owner.

These are the type of policies that the ‘new’ Government should be pursuing. They are cost effective, innovative and provide the best coverage for the cost.

The Conservative Manifesto also pledged to upgrade all fuel poor homes to EPC Band C by 2030, whilst also reviewing requirements on new homes.

HHIC would like to see the reintroduction of the zero carbon homes target which was scrapped in 2015. The rather short sighted move came under then Chancellor George Osborne's economic productivity drive called ‘Fixing the Foundations'.

Yes we need more homes, and yes we need to stimulate the economy, but there is no justification for building homes with a permanent legacy of energy bills being higher than they need to be.

Climate change is the single biggest challenge facing us today. If we continue to build homes and buildings that are not as energy efficient as they could be, we are just creating problems for the future.

The UK is currently faced with a huge program of retrofit, to bring the current housing stock up to even just minimum energy efficiency standards. So why are we planning on adding to that problem?

It just doesn't make sense, and if anything it justifies even more rigorously the need for high level engagement between Government and industry.

Of course, whether any of these manifesto pledges actually come to fruition is about as clear as mud. After the political merry go round of the last few months; the only thing industry can be certain of, is that HHIC will continue to react to the changing landscape.