Renew On Line (UK) 69
|Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 169 Sept-Oct 2007
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
6. Domestic Energy plans
HIP replacement goes wrong
The proposals for Home Information Packs (HIPs) continued to come under attack as unworkable- and in May at the last moment, they were withdrawn (for now), except for 4 bedroomed houses, due to the shortfall of trained inspectors, and a legal challenge. It’s been a long battle. The June 2006 HIP Regulations required Home Condition Reports (HCRs) to be a mandatory element of HIPs. However, the government then backed down and agreed that HCRs would not yet be required in HIPs, pending revisions. But the revised proposals attracted extensive criticism from many property professionals. The House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, has looked at the issue, and it chair, Lord Filkin, commented that ‘After dropping HCRs as a mandatory element of HIPs, the Government describe their proposals as a limited regulatory intervention which they expect will stimulate the housing market towards wider innovation. But the comments which we have received from key stakeholder organisations in the housing market are striking in the strength of their criticisms. Such comment may not invalidate the purposes of the Regulations, but we believe that the Government need to take such criticism seriously and to do more if the market is to respond positively.’
The Lords also comment on the Government’s decision to link the production of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) to the issue of HIPs. This decision means that many EPCs will have to be updated more often than every 10 years, as specified in the European Directive. Some said it was ‘gold plating’. The Better Regulation Commission said that there was a lack of evidence to justify the approach. The Government argue that such ‘over-implementation’ is desirable, but the Lords Committee said it had not yet seen adequate evidence to support this. In its report on the HIP Regulations, and the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations, the Merits Committee drew attention to the way in which the Government have developed their revised proposals for HIPs over the last year. In particular, the Committee questions whether the HIP Regulations ‘may imperfectly achieve their policy objective’ of making the home-buying process significantly easier and more transparent. It also questioned whether the Energy Performance Regulations ‘may inappropriately implement EU legislation’.
Of course, there are other views, which for example see the opposition to HIPs and HCR’s as obstructionism by construction and property owners, who, after all, are still well represented in the Lords. And EPCs seem a good idea. But for now, HIPs is broken..
Five new Eco-towns
Gordon Brown has pledged to build five eco-towns that will create up to 100,000 new homes powered by solar panels and wind turbines. This idea had actually already been announced, but Brown evidently wanted to put his stamp on it. The first will be on the abandoned Oakington Barracks in Cambridgeshire, which was recently bought by English Partnership for £100m. According to the Observer (13 May), they will follow on from the eco-villages proposed by the Prince of Wales in Cornwall and will each have 10,000-20,000 new homes, with a mixture of private and social housing for the less well-off, built on ‘brownfield’ sites, mainly on derelict land, Brown said : ‘If we are to meet the aspirations of every young couple to do the best for themselves and their children, then we need to build new homes, and we need to deliver well-planned, green and prosperous communities where they will want to live’.
In February, the Duchy of Cornwall submitted plans to the local council for an eco-village in Cornwall, a second attempt by the Prince of Wales to create an ideal village. Surfbury will lie two miles from surfing beach Fistral Bay and feature a primary school, railway station, offices, shops and 850 environment friendly homes.
In 1993, the Duchy invested in construction of a model village, Poundbury, near Dorchester. The design of Surfbury is similar, but the use of renewable energy, rainwater harvesting, locally-sourced and reclaimed materials will make it more eco-friendly.
Watch out for Solar Scams
Energywatch, the independent watchdog, has expressed concern about mis-selling. ‘Consumers should be aware that people will try to exploit the green agenda and we expect mis-selling to be more common in the future’. Consumer Direct, a free government-backed advisory service, said it had received more than 1,000 complaints from consumers last year claiming they had been mis-sold solar thermal products that heat water and are supposed to cut consumption and therefore your energy bill. John Walker, a director of the Solar Trade Association (STA) warned about “cowboy” solar panel salesmen. He said he would “seriously question” any salesman claiming a saving of more than 30% on a household’s total energy bill using thermal solar panels. ‘Overselling the benefits of solar power is a problem in the industry. It’s simply not true to suggest that you can save a half of your overall energy bills with that kind of system.’ Walker advised people to use one of the 120 approved STA members to fit solar panels.
The Sunday Times (13/5/07) reported that ‘last November Simplee Solar was fined £40,000 by Bournemouth Crown Court for distributing flyers claiming its heating panels could cut fuel bills by 70%’. It added ‘other companies attracting complaints include Smart Energy (UK)- where Simplee Solar founder Lee Comer was once a director- Solar Technik, based in Bournemouth, & Spectrum Energy, which is now in liquidation’.
LCBP micropower grant cuts
With the maximum per household now £2,500, down from £15,000, and support for micro wind halved to £2,500, the new funding regime for oversubscribed Householder micropower grants scheme under the Low Carbon Building Programme (see Renew 168) were not too well received. ‘If I had to think of a way to destroy the renewables industry, even my worst case scenario would not have been as bad as this,’ said Rajiv Bhatia, head of Alternergy, a leading renewable energy distributor. Gregory Barker MP, Shadow Minister for Climate and Environment and Charles Hendry MP, Shadow Minister for Energy, commented in a letter to the Telegraph that ‘maximum household grants under its low carbon buildings programme will be cut by more than 80% for solar photovoltaic and by 50% for small wind and micro-hydro’, adding that this was ‘one year into what is supposed to be a three-year support programme’. And from a left-wing perspective, Scott Redding wrote to the Independent (12 May) complaining that ‘cutting renewable energy grants- from £15,000 per household to £2,500- makes a mockery of Labour being a party for the working class. If Gordon Brown wants to renew Labour, he needs an industrial strategy whereby most Britons are able to afford on-site renewable energy systems to do their part in fighting climate change.’
The Renewable Energy Association said ‘this decision will place renewable electricity beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest households’. Environmentalists were also unhappy: e.g.FoE saw the grants as ‘woefully inadequate’.
BRE ‘Zero C’ houses
Five demonstration houses on the Building Research Establishments Innovation Park seek to address the ‘zero carbon’ challenge. Four of them, by Stewart Milne Group, Kingspan, ecoTECH and Hanson, have been built to the Government’s new voluntary Code for Sustainable Homes, introduced in April. They are the first to be assessed under its voluntary regulation.
Green light UK firm Ceravision has developed a microwave fired lightbulb that is said to be over 3 times as efficient as a CFL and will run for decades.
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