Renew On Line (UK) 59
Extracts from NATTA's journal
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
9. Energy Efficiency- mixed reviews
Building Regs revised
New measures to make buildings more energy efficient have been introduced, which the government claim will save nearly one million tonnes of carbon per year by 2010. They say that the changes to Parts F and L (ventilation and fuel conservation) of the Building Regulations are ‘two years ahead of schedule’, and that the implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive will make ‘a major contribution to the UK’s commitment to combat climate change’. The revised Part L make air pressure leakage testing of buildings mandatory, improving compliance with the regulations by showing where there is unacceptable leakage, which can reduce the energy efficiency.
These measures alongside changes to condensing boilers will, the government says, ‘deliver increased energy standards for new buildings, including around 27% in non-dwellings, 22% in houses and 18% in flats. On average the increase in dwellings will be 20% which reflects the growing proportion of flats being built with more people now living alone. The new measures taken, together with changes to strengthen Building Regulations in 2002, will improve standards by 40%, cutting fuel bills by up to 40% for new homes built from 2006.’
However not everyone saw it so positively. Critics pointed out that in fact the new building regs were meant to be implemented in 2005 and they claim that what has now emerged is much less ambitious than what was originally proposed- they have been slimmed down, with what was described as ‘goldplating’ (e.g. controls on extensions) removed. Andrew Warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, told the Guardian (15/9/05): “These regulations are not as good as the should have been. We need a step change in energy efficiency, which is what the prime minister promised. This is shuffle not a step change.” He said ACE had estimated that the changes would only make homes 18% more efficient. Initially there were promises of 25% savings. He added that more far reaching proposals were dropped after “very very heavy lobbying” from the construction industry.
* Part L of the Building Regulations sets out standards for building work in order to conserve fuel and power and minimise heat loss, raising energy efficiency standards through the use of more energy efficient materials and methods. The measures are performance-based which allows housebuilders flexibility about how the new standards are met. To ensure a high level of compliance and understanding of the new regs ODPM is introducing nationally recognised qualifications for surveyors and will be promoting the development of self-certification schemes for Part L schemes to improve regulation. ODPM has already put in place a training and information programme. In addition, from April 2006 all new residential development receiving government funding will need to meet a new national Code for Sustainable Buildings. which goes beyond Building Regs, covering not just fuel and power but also the efficient use of water, ensuring much higher sustainability standards.
On building related renewables, the DTI add ‘The revisions to Part L to be implemented in April 2006 set maximum carbon dioxide emissions for whole buildings. This performance-based approach will offer designers the flexibility to choose solutions that best meet their needs, and that are cost-effective and practical. We shall not therefore be prescribing the use of solar panels or other “low and zero carbon” (LZC) technologies such as wind generators, heat pumps and wood pellet stoves. However, the revisions to Part L will raise performance standards to a level that will provide a strong incentive to designers to consider LZC systems.’
More to come..
ODPM will be leading a new review, in conjunction with HM Treasury, DTI and DEFRA, to identify measures to increase the sustainability of existing dwellings. The review will start urgently with a view to consulting stakeholders ‘in Spring 2006’. Consequential amendments for existing housing stock will not be implemented through these new Part L regulations. Instead, building regulations will be considered alongside other issues including the role of possible incentives, voluntary initiatives and Home Information Packs.
It’s all a muddle...
A House of Lords Select Committee report last year urged the Government to resolve the uncertainty and confusion that are undermining its attempts to promote energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Baroness Perry of Southwark, who chaired the inquiry, said that there were ‘far too many departments, agencies and policies, often pulling in different directions’.
The report calls for a single Energy Minister with responsibility for both the energy supply industry and energy efficiency, the merger of the Carbon Trust and Energy Saving Trust, and suggested that local government should be given the tools to develop local energy efficiency projects. It also wanted the government to strengthen the Building Regs and enforce them more rigorously, and to address the acute skills shortage in the construction industry It added that the dramatic fall in Government funding for construction research had to be reversed and that fiscal incentives to encourage efficient energy be used, including a new pricing structure so that low energy users pay less per unit. It called for community heating in all new build projects, using waste heat and of carbon-free heat such as biomass and solar thermal where viable, and for the adoption of the “energy services” model to community heating. And it wanted to resist any watering down of the EU energy efficiency label scheme- already much delayed.
Duncan McLaren, from Friends of the Earth Scotland, welcomed the report: “The mish-mash of agencies hides the lack of money to address energy efficiency, and results in applications for grants and help being bounced from pillar to post”.
The Lords inquiry, which began in July 2004, was conducted by Sub-committee of the Science and Technology Select Committee. The report can be accessed via: http://www.parliament.uk/hlscience
... but EEC works
It may be complex and in need of streamlining (see above) but at least some bits of the energy efficiency programme seems to work. The governments ‘Energy Efficiency Commitment’ 2002-2005 resulted in a 1% reduction in domestic carbon emissions, and led to total customer savings of around £350m per year, £175m of which were made in low income households, thus helping to alleviate fuel poverty. OFGEM said that around 10 million households, 6m on low incomes, have benefited from energy saving measures over the last 3 years- e.g. by installing around 300,00 energy-efficient boilers, cavity wall insulation (over 1m) and low-energy light bulbs (nearly 40m), and by buying 6.5m subsidised energy-efficient household appliances. The overall energy saving target for the first phase of the EEC was 62 TWh. Suppliers exceeded this by eventually saving 86.8 TWh. Their excess gains will be carried over into the second phase (2005-08) which sets them the challenge of saving 130 TWh.
* Fuel poverty affects 2 million households in the UK and is defined as when a household spends more than 10% of its income on energy. The Government has pledged to end fuel poverty for the vulnerable by 2010 and eradicate it entirely by 2016. However, Fuel Poverty campaigners argue that not enough is being done- National Energy Action has warned that rising energy prices have returned close to 1 million households to fuel poverty.
Significant discounts on council tax and stamp duty are needed to persuade householders to reduce energy use and ensure Britain meets targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Energy Saving Trust, which has called for council tax bills to be cut by up to £90 a year and for stamp duty discounts of £1,000 to stimulate demand for energy efficiency in new homes. The measures could cost the Treasury up to £100m. It is estimated that 11 million UK householders still do not have cavity-wall insulation, although it costs only a few hundred pounds and can pay for itself many times over in smaller fuel bills- insulating walls can cut a home’s annual carbon emissions by a third. EST say that if all 11 million were fully insulated, that would reduce emissions by 10% of the saving needed to meet the UK’s domestic energy efficiency targets. Philip Sellwood, EST’s CEO, told the Independent: ‘There is no real incentive for householders to take advantage of energy efficiency measures. We need to make people aware of this and make it easy and convenient for them to take action.’
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