Pressure is mounting on the Government to invest heavily in national energy saving measures while the green effects of policy changes are being assessed.
Industry and green groups are pressing the Government and other political parties to place energy efficiency at the very top of any infrastructure plan, costing the investment needed at £4 billion a year.
That is in contrast to the Government’s retrograde moves include the exclusion of small new house building developments from the 2016 zero carbon homes target. Along with that is the scale back of targets for the ECO energy efficiency policy late last year, following intensive lobbying by some of the “Big Six” utilities companies who assert that green levies push up energy bills.
The zero carbon homes target is further weakened by the fact that now larger building developments can also backtrack on carbon. The legislation will allow for developers to build to level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes as long as they offset through allowable solutions to achieve level 5.
And of course, the Code is being abolished shortly.
Eight years ago, the zero carbon homes policy was launched and it really meant zero: 100 per cent of all carbon emissions. But this focus has become increasingly blurred with the nature of emissions relaxed and more ‘allowable solutions’ introduced, rather than improvements in energy performance and renewable energy generation.
The £4 billion appeal was launched by 20 organisations, led by the UK Green Building Council with the Federation of Master Builders, charities and energy organisations. They are calling for a million “deep retrofits” to be completed on homes each year by 2020.
They wrote to Lord Deighton, the Infrastructure Minister, to argue that the National Infrastructure Plan might currently pay little attention to energy efficiency investment as the Government’s drives the stimulation of billions of pounds of other investment each year across a range of sectors.
The letter says: “An issue of such significance must be regarded as a national infrastructure priority. The National Infrastructure Plan recognises that markets need support to deliver projects of national importance, and this is clearly true for home energy efficiency.”
The pressure group’s supporting pamphlet – A housing stock fit for the future: Making home energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority – calls on all political parties to devise a sustainable long-term plan that will promote and support energy efficiency – and advises that £3-4 billion a year should be earmarked to mend market failures and encourage deployment of additional private capital across the sector.
The pamphlet reflects on the example of a German government-backed scheme run by the KfW bank which triggered €15 of private investment in construction and retrofit with more than €4 being gathered back into the public purse for every €1 spent by the bank.
An energy efficiency programme, according to the pressure group, could have a deep impact on the economy, doubling the number of jobs in the sector to 260,000, many in small and medium-sized enterprises across the country.
The group estimates that energy efficiency could also lift 90 per cent of homes out of fuel poverty, reducing energy bills by £300 per household per year.
The pamphlet argues: “Energy saving measures cost less on average per unit of power than large-scale power generation. Through cost-effective investment in all forms of energy efficiency, the UK could be saving 196TWh in 2020, equivalent to 22 power stations.
“Meeting energy needs through demand reduction will reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels and increase national security.”
Demand reduction has been at the forefront of SaveMoneyCutCarbon’s work over the past two years. We have consistently argued for the triple cut – “cut consumption, cut carbon, cut bills” because it makes sense to everyone and benefits all.
Our figures also indicate that rapid payback is easily achievable through simple energy saving and water efficiency measures. Retrofitting LED lights and installing water/heat saving devices like eco showers, eco taps and tap aerators is the best way to make a big, quick and sustainable difference.
These projects should sit alongside the insulation and other energy-efficient improvements being flagged by the pressure group.
It seems certain that the carbon backtracking by the Government will make investment nationally a requirement sooner rather than later, if emissions targets are to be met.
Whatever the Coalition decides, there is a sense that the steps backwards will lock in higher energy bills for decades, a view strongly advocated by the Sustainable Energy Association, which also advises that ‘zero carbon’ will only apply to 30 per cent of new homes from now – 70 per cent are in small developments – and will require only a 44 per cent reduction in carbon emissions on 2006 standards.
A future of above-inflation energy bill hikes along with failure to hit carbon emissions targets is surely not what the current Coalition will want on its CV –bold, effective action on energy efficiency is needed right now.