A member of the Committee on Climate Change has called on the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to use the Housing and Planning Bill to build towards European standards for low energy consumption, due to come into force at the end of 2020.
In a letter addressed to Baroness Williams, parliamentary under secretary of state for DCLG, Lord Krebs claims the Bill “will have lasting consequences” on the government’s planned one million new homes by 2020.
Currently these properties will not have to meet any low carbon building standards following the decision to scrap the zero carbon homes (ZCH) standard due in 2016. DCLG recently confirmed to Clean Energy News that the nearly zero energy building (NZEB) standard imposed by the European Commission will be included in building regulations for 2020. This means all new homes built after 31 December 2020 will be legislated to have low energy demand which is predominantly met by renewable energy sources.
Until the European rules are implemented, the government’s one million homes pledge can be met without meeting these standards, which Lord Krebs believes will have consequences for both the government and the taxpayer.
In the letter, the chairman of the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change (ASC) says: “There is an opportunity through this Bill to make sure the aspiration to build an additional one million homes by 2020 does not come at the expense of burdening their occupants with long term costs and climate impacts whilst also rendering the UK’s statutory greenhouse gas emission targets more difficult to achieve.”
“In ending the programme of work and policies associated with ZCH the government threw away many cost-effective aspects that had widespread industry support,” he added.
Lord Krebs claims in the letter the Housing and Planning Bill should therefore be used to build towards the NZEB standards by requiring new homes to go beyond current Part L requirements in the UK’s building regulations.
This is a point that has been brought up by a number of industry representatives, who have called on the government repeatedly to set out a roadmap to adoption of the EU rules. Speaking to Clean Energy News earlier this month, Pedro Guertler, head of research at the Association for the Conservation of Energy, said: “Even if there aren’t any other building regulations between now and 2020, what’s more important is to communicate very clearly to the stakeholders what the expectation will be for that standard and to engage fully with the various bits of infrastructure out there that have been working on this.”
Lord Krebs also points out in his letter that the widespread adoption of low carbon heating would be consistent with what is needed to meet the fourth carbon budget and the 2050 target for emissions reduction.
Possibly taking a swipe at the government’s explanation for scrapping ZCH, the crossbench peer claims his recommendations would come at “low or zero additional cost” and added: “I know of no evidence that such measures will affect the speed at which the UK can build new homes.”
“The solutions are known and their introduction necessary. If these proposals are further delayed, we will have to accept an increased risk of extreme weather impacts and additional costs at a later stage of modifying these homes in order to meet national and international climate change commitments,” he concluded.
The Housing and Planning Bill is due to enter its report stage in the House of Commons on 5 January 2016, when MPs can suggest amendments or new clauses they believe should be added. This is likely to be followed immediately by debate on the Bill’s third reading.