The Coalition government will reportedly go back on its pledge to make all new homes emissions-free by 2016, with the changes set to be unveiled by the Queen in her annual speech to parliament today.
The bill will allow developers to buy exemptions from green standards. If they choose not to go ‘zero-carbon’, they can build a house with emissions 44% lower than 2006 levels – or level 4 of the new Code for Sustainable Homes, rather than the zero-carbon level 5.
If this option is taken, the developer will be expected to contribute towards alternative green schemes at a rate between £36 and £90 per tonne of carbon to be saved.
The original zero-carbon plans were implemented by the previous Labour government in 2006. Last year, the current government launched a consultation on how best to lead the transition to zero-carbon homes, with recommendations on how to make the residential sector carbon-free.
In 2013, 25% of all carbon emissions in the UK came from residential properties, leading to the consultation stating that the, “government is committed to requiring all new homes from 2016 to meet the zero carbon standard”.
The standard enforced requirements for developers to undertake 100% of carbon abatement on site or through other means, such as heat networks and paying into a fund that will invest in delivering carbon abatement on behalf of the developer.
Zero-carbon homes scrutiny
The definition of ‘zero-carbon’ was scrutinised by the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) last year for “lacking in clarity”. The council argued the policy was “creating inefficiencies and the loss of global export opportunities”.
Paul King, chief executive of UK-GBC, said in reply to the announcement, “It’s good to see the coalition is following through on its promise to introduce Allowable Solutions, an integral part in ensuring our homes will be zero-carbon from 2016. The industry urgently needs clarity on this part of the policy and we look forward to hearing more details in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday.
“However, it is deeply worrying to hear suggestions that ‘small sites’ could be exempt from the zero-carbon standard. This decision could cause confusion and lead to perverse outcomes, for example the slowing down of housing supply as developers phase the delivery of ‘small sites’ to avoid regulations.”
Meanwhile Philip Sellwood, chief executive at the Energy Saving Trust, added, “As we grapple with our existing ailing and inefficient housing, still amongst the leakiest in Europe, the last avoidable thing we need is to have to deal with yet more homes in future years that were not built to high standards of energy efficiency.
“This short-term vision will only serve to damage consumers in the long-term who are stuck with new homes that are not up to the highest standards of energy efficiency. This will ultimately cost the householder money because of escalating fuel bills and prevent them from living in the warmest and healthiest home possible.”
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) and the Solar Trade Association (STA) both also expressed concern over the news. Stuart Elmes from the STA added, “Solar in new build is a real win-win. Installing renewables during construction is more cost effective than retrofitting it later. Energy efficient new homes incorporating renewable energy help build the awareness and acceptance of the technology in the locality and creates a supply chain able to support the improvement of existing homes.”