The Zero Carbon Hub, a public/private body set up to develop a zero carbon standard for homes has closed it was announced earlier this month. This signals a formal end in the short term to the UK’s attempts to set a zero carbon standard for building new homes. In the long term, if we are still in the EU, and the UK government doesn’t stall on implementing it, or waters is down, Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings under the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive aims to force member states to build near zero carbon homes by the end of 2020.
From Transition Bath’s perspective we feel with this closure, and the recent policy changes from this government that our chances of meeting the UK’s 2050 carbon targets are rapidly receding. By 2050 all the UK’s buildings will have to be zero carbon, to achieve this we will either have to find an unlimited source of renewable energy and/or make our buildings much more energy efficient. It seems to us a very short term government policy to halt progress towards zero carbon homes, if within 30 years of being built today new homes will have to be retrofitted to make them more energy efficient.
Given Transition Bath’s work encouraging home owners to retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient, it would great to not to have to do work on newly built homes in future, reducing the scale of our task. We have long pointed out that economically building homes to a zero carbon standard makes very good sense in that the additional capital costs are quickly offset by reduced running costs, with payback of less than 10 years. Unfortunately, the current government when doing a cost benefit analysis of their decision to not move forward on Zero Carbon Homes, specifically excluded including the benefits to home owners, and UK plc in reduced energy bills and energy imports, in favour of only analysing the benefits to housing developers. This decision to us makes no rational economic sense, as it doesn’t even increase the cost of new homes in most of the country and particularly in the south east where most homes are being built.
We suspect undue pressure from larger developers on the Department of Communities and Local Government has led to this evidence free change of policy.
Also, with the demise of the Zero Carbon Hub we are concerned work on the ‘Performance Gap‘ won’t be taken forward. This was a project which researched the ‘performance gap’ between the theoretical energy models e.g. SAP and EPCs and the actual energy performance of newly built buildings. On average new homes use 40% more energy than that predicted by SAP and much of this difference comes from the poor quality of building by our larger developers; missing insulation, thermal bypass, poor air permeability, substitution of inferior materials etc.. Its frustrating for us that we work to support home owners in making their homes more energy efficient and draught-proofed, and that this work is equally applicable to our 200 year old homes as it is to homes recently built; we feel modern homes should be built to a standard that they are already energy efficient.