Building regulations & Green Deal changes strengthen sustainability but miss simple steps to cut energy consumption and carbon emissions

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August 2, 2013

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Two Government announcements this week gave us pause for thought at SaveMoneyCutCarbon because both have long-term effects on sustainability strategies.

First, Baroness Hanham announced the much-delayed new version of Part L – the section of the Building Regulations focusing on energy efficiency. The new regulations from next April will demand a 6% cut in CO2 emissions for new build homes and a 9% cut for new non-domestic buildings

If those figures seem tough, consider that the targets first proposed were 8% and 20%. Baroness Hanham also announced that minimum energy efficiency standards for lighting upgrades in non-domestic buildings will be strengthened.

Eight months is not so long to wait for this change but would have been much sooner had the Department of Communities and Local Government not missed the deadlines for publication and implementation. We can expect the full details, including guidance and impact assessment, before the end of summer.

Lux Magazine has highlighted the frustration among lighting industry figures about delays and uncertainties in the proposed changes so at least there is some degree of clarity now. The government forecasts that the changes will bring £16 million of savings to businesses and Communities minister Don Foster believes that the measures “mean businesses and householders will not only benefit from reduced energy bills but they will also know they are doing their bit to tackle climate change”.

Plan L changes could cut £200 on typical new homes’ fuel bills and large businesses more than £60,000, compared to 2010 standards, with a reduction of 6.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Ministers will also launch a consultation process soon on how to implement “allowable solutions” that will allow house builders to meet their carbon requirements with offsite work.

You can read Baroness Hanham’s full statement here but significantly, the Government will not implement quality assurance certification plans, according to Building magazine.

The magazine writes that the Government “had proposed that builders would need to become accredited to avoid having to deliver an extra 3% carbon emissions saving on their projects, a move designed to combat the tendency for buildings to fall short of predicted savings”.

As far as we can gather, the Government remains committed to the strategy of making all new homes zero carbon from 2016 but the delays to the regulatory mean that this goal is now a difficult one to achieve on schedule.

The second announcement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was the launch of a £20 million Green Deal Communities scheme.

The new proposals give local authorities in England the opportunity to bid for funding from the £20 million pot and then target households at a granular level, identifying streets and areas that could benefit most from the Green Deal, offering incentives to encourage householders to install energy efficiency home improvements.

Local authorities will propose incentives as part of their bids for funding, which will be assessed by DECC. The full information packs are available here.

According to Heating and Ventilation magazine, Greg Barker, Energy and Climate Change Minister, says: “If we are going to deliver the Green Deal at real scale then we need a ‘street-by-street’ vision and a ‘street-by-street’ plan! However, local authorities really know their areas best. They know which streets and properties could most benefit from a Green Deal to improve their energy efficiency, and what local people need to provide them with a greater choice.

“The Coalition is committed to helping hard pressed consumers and this £20 million funding will help more families benefit from the Green Deal, making homes warmer and more efficient, and protecting consumers against rising energy bills.”

DECC has allotted £23 million of funding for core cities and local authorities to kick-start the Green Deal, an ambitious and long term programme aimed at improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s buildings. It gives homes and businesses the opportunity to pay for energy efficiency home improvements through savings on their fuel bills.

Also this week, a £200 million energy efficiency scheme for homes in the North East – Warm Up North – was announced by Newcastle City Council. The initiative could benefit up to 50,000 households and businesses in the North East.

The Government will also set up a Green Deal Provider Forum to look at ways of supporting and enhancing the Green Deal and the energy efficiency retrofit sector, chaired by Ian Cheshire, Group chief executive of Kingfisher. The forum will bring together senior representatives from the Green Deal Provider community and broader retrofit industry, with support provided by the Green Deal Oversight and Registration Body.

We welcome any moves towards a sustainable energy policy in the UK and it is good to see that new homes and offices will focus on efficient, money-saving and carbon-cutting lighting. We do wonder, though, about the missed opportunities in the Green Deal, which focuses heavily on insulation (loft or cavity wall insulation, draught-proofing, double glazing), efficient heating and renewable energy technologies, for example solar panels or wind turbines.

Regular readers of the SaveMoneyCutCarbon blog will know how much value we place in the simple steps that homes and businesses can take to reduce energy bills and carbon emissions. These steps – fitting LED lighting, tap aerators and eco shower heads in homes and businesses, optimising management of heating and ventilation (HVAC) and maximising boiler efficiency – are proven, repay investment very quickly, have long life spans and are simple to install with low or zero maintenance.

If there was a national programme that supported these steps, the energy and carbon savings would be immense – and we are puzzled by the lack of government activity here. Let’s hope this changes – and soon.

Call us on 0845 123 5464 to find out how you can cut energy and water bills, cut energy and waterconsumption and cut carbon footprint.

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