Is there hope for zero carbon homes in the UK? The House of Lords call for a reversal on policy scrapping
Posted by Anna Carlini on 18 March 2016 at 2:05 pm
We wrote last July on the government scrapping new regulations that would have meant all houses built from 2016 would need to be carbon neutral. The regulations were first announced in 2006 and were therefore scrapped in the ninth year of a ten-year plan. But now the House of Lords have thrown their voice behind the call for a reversal on the policy, and a British solar developer and a Chinese company have announced a deal to introduce 8,000 zero-carbon homes into the UK. Despite the decision to cancel the regulations, there is still a glimmer of hope for the quality of energy efficient UK housing.
Zero carbon homes generate as much energy on-site through renewable sources as they use in heating, hot water, lighting and ventilation. They are cheaper to run due to low energy bills and are a strong step towards meeting our energy goals in the wake of the UN conference in Paris last year.
Following the axing of the policy 250 businesses from the construction, property and renewable energy industries called on the Chancellor to reverse the decision. It was seen as economically harmful as millions of pounds had been spent to prepare for the regulations to come into place this year.
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said the U-turn was “short-sighted, unnecessary, retrograde and damaging to the house-building industry, which has invested heavily in delivering energy-efficient homes”. STA head of policy Mike Landy said: “It has left a policy vacuum and the government has yet to explain the rationale for its decision.”
Building better places
The House of Lords have recently joined their voices to the dissent with the publication of their report, Building better places. Within the report they strongly recommend the reversal of the end of the zero-carbon homes policy. They raise concerns that when delivering new homes a focus on speed and quantity will put quality and design at risk. They give warnings that a short-sighted approach to housing could mean a repetition of mistakes of the past.
More positively, however, plans have recently been announced for a deal between UK solar developers WElink Energy and British Solar Renewables (BSR) and the China National Building Materials Group (CNBM) which secures the building of 8,000 zero-carbon homes in the coming years. The properties will be connected to the grid as well as being able to produce and store their own energy. They are to be complete with rooftop solar panels, energy storage systems and waste-to-energy technologies. Angus MacDonald, managing director at BSR, said the announcement was "tremendous news". Not only does this have great potential to boost to the UK’s green housing sector, but it is evidence that zero-carbon homes are realistic and affordable in the UK.
This new deal gives hope that there is a place for carbon neutral homes in the UK housing market and that energy efficiency is something which can be achieved at affordable prices. In the face of high energy bills and the possibility of great changes in the energy infrastructure, zero carbon homes offer a long-lasting and sensible home for the future. Buildings should be built to last and to stand the test of time. In this, we and House of Lords are in agreement: sustainable homes should be homes of the present as well as the future.
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