The myth of the Green House
24 January 2018
Ever feel like you’re going nowhere fast? Despite years of consultations, gigabytes of reports and the storming of many an expert brain we are still no nearer to solving the problem of how to make our existing housing stock more energy efficient. Chris Coxon, Head of Marketing at Eurocell, looks at the ‘Clean Growth Strategy’.
The Government had to axe the Green Deal back in 2015. Apparently, there weren’t many takers for an expensive loan, a bamboozingly complicated process, and domestic upheaval for the sake of a few pence extra after fuel savings had paid off the loan. Since then, we’ve all been wondering what comes next.
Some had hoped for an answer in the Government’s recently published Clean Growth Strategy. This is a reporting document required under the obligations of the Climate Change Act, dressed up as a call to arms: “leading the way to a low carbon future” and “seizing the clean growth opportunity”.
Hailed by some as a sign that this Government is genuinely committed to developing a green economy, the strategy does set down some positive intentions. It says that all fuel-poor homes must be EPC (energy performance certified) band C or higher by 2030 and that “as many homes as possible” are upgraded to band C by 2035. Detail on how this will be achieved, however, is distinctly lacking in the 162-page document.
Instead we are promised yet more consultations. The Government is asking for evidence on what additional measures, such as green mortgages or incentives, could encourage energy performance improvements on homes (I’m sure we’ve been here before...).
And there could be another consultation following on from Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of the Building Regulations – due to report Spring 2018 – on how to make sure that works such as extensions and refurbs on existing properties deliver energy efficiency. But surely, competent Building Control officers are already doing this, working with builders to ensure the right detailing and specifications of products?
A cynic might wonder what will come first: robust policies that encourage householders to upgrade their properties or the decarbonisation of the grid. Especially when the report itself admits: “Reducing demand for energy will not be enough on its own to meet our ambitions for homes. By 2050, we will also likely need to fully decarbonise how we heat our homes”.
This means that we need to investigate technologies such as heat pumps and using low carbon gases such as hydrogen, says the report. The added challenge is that houses built today will have to be upgraded to different heating technologies tomorrow. That’s difficult if you don’t know what you will be upgrading to…
The good news is that the average household’s energy consumption has fallen by 17% since 1990. However, there’s still some way to go: homes currently account for 13% of all UK emissions, or 22% if you take into account all the electricity we use for appliances and gadgets.
So, while we wait for the results of the next consultation, and the next, the best thing we as an industry can do is ensure that all those SMEs currently carrying out window replacements and other home improvement works are doing it as well as they can, and can explain to their customers what energy efficiency means in terms of outlay cost, comfort, bills and performance.
Companies like Eurocell have an important role to play in this, providing information and training, spreading best practice and alerting specifiers and installers where problems could occur.