Guest post by Mark Sait, managing director of energy efficiency and water saving specialists SaveMoneyCutCarbon, one of our supporting suppliers
The recent re-launch of the Government Green Deal is very welcome but there is much more to achieve so that the long-term zero carbon homes target is reached.
It is disappointing that core carbon reduction, energy saving measures such as low-energy LED lighting and simple, effective water-saving solutions like eco taps, eco showers and tap aerators are still being ignored by the national initiative.
For reasons that I find pretty insubstantial, the Government will not include energy-efficient lighting for domestic properties in the Green Deal, despite it being highly cost effective. Our research and real-world installation work shows that return on investment in LED lighting would be rapid, by lowering energy consumption and bills.
The Green Deal was trumpeted by the Government as a main element in its sustainability strategy for the country, promising to support and encourage households to cut energy and water consumption through a range of energy efficiency options.
However, the failure of the initial UK Green Deal launched in February 2013 with only 626 contracts completed in the first year, well short of the 10,000 target, prompted the Government to act a little more decisively.
At the start of May, the Coalition announced the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund available for domestic energy customers to get:
- up to £1000 for installing two measures from an approved list; and/or
- up to £6000 for installing solid wall insulation; and
- up to £100 refunded for their Green Deal Assessment.
The scheme also entitles those who have brought a property in the 12 months prior to application to qualify for up to an additional £500 if they carry out energy efficiency improvements.
To be eligible, a customer must have the improvements recommended on an eligible Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), less than 24 months old, or a Green Deal Advice Report. Households that have previously benefited from ECO or Green Deal Cashback may apply for funding for further improvements provided an Energy Performance Certificate or Green Deal Advice Report recommends them.
Clearly, from the first week of figures, the new Green Deal is an attractive option for those committed to reducing carbon footprint and cutting energy use, working in different degrees towards the great work of pathfinder zero carbon projects like the Oxford Green House.
Around 1,730 applications were made for the fund which offers households in England and Wales up to £7,600 cash back for making energy efficient home improvements – and £2.61 million was issued to households through the Fund in the first week.
The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund also applies to private or social landlords, who can benefit if they undertake to improve the property and are paying the costs themselves.
Initiatives like the Green Deal are little steps towards the zero-carbon target in Britain, despite some recent changes in regulations that are sending mixed signals to developers and homebuyers.
The Coalition has diluted its commitment to zero carbon homes by excluding small housing sites, announced in the Queen’s Speech. The 2016 target for all new homes to be zero carbon seemed genuinely revolutionary when Gordon Brown and housing minister Yvette Cooper first announced it in 2006.
“Small housing sites” are expected to be those developments with 100 homes or less. At the same time, larger developers will only be required to build to the soon-to-be abandoned Code for Sustainable Homes at level four as long as they offset the additional carbon through other projects, such as energy efficiency retrofit work. That’s one step down and another delay in progress to near- and zero-carbon housing.
The offsetting scheme – “allowable solutions” – will cost between £36 and £90 for every tonne of carbon offset and the price of carbon is crucial as it will dictate the value of the offsetting projects the developer is required to undertake.
The UK Green Building Council, among others, has said that it is a deeply worrying move, which could cause confusion and unexpected outcomes such as a supply slowdown, potentially caused by developers phasing delivery of “small sites” to avoid regulations.
There are also concerns that changes to the zero carbon homes pledge could ultimately cost householders money through escalating fuel bills.
Another big strand of national energy strategy, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) appears to be stuttering. Measures installed through ECO rose 14 per cent during last November to 82,131, and the total number of upgrades completed is around 461,726. These figures confirmed the number of subsidised energy efficiency upgrades remain well below the historic highs achieved by the insulation industry in previous years.
The Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) reports that the just announced Green Deal Home Improvement Fund can replace only 15 per cent of the emissions reductions lost through the Budget changes to the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
That shortfall is a little shocking, particularly when viewed in the positive context of the EU announcing in Athens that it will cut its carbon emissions in 2020 by a bigger margin than pledged under UN climate change treaties.
At SaveMoneyCutCarbon, we have campaigned over the past year for an effective national programme that helps householders and companies to ‘Cut Consumption, Cut Carbon Footprint and Cut Bills’ while we plan and work towards near/zero carbon status.
A national initiative focusing on both short and medium term energy saving effects would help to relieve pressure on the National Grid, which will continue to struggle with demand while energy production capacity shrinks, the continued price rises for electricity and gas, and the need for carbon emission reductions.
Energy prices will continue to rise ahead of inflation for the foreseeable future and shale gas is probably not the solution to energy production needs. Any shale gas boom is a long way off.
Whatever the shifting carbon targets, it surely makes sense to go all out this year for energy savings and focus on the solutions that provide quickest, most sustainable reductions in energy consumption.
We think the Government could have gone further, by making initiatives more flexible and inclusive. These extra measures, helping people to fit LED lighting, eco showers, eco taps and tap aerators have an immediate effect on bills, pay for themselves very quickly and go on cutting costs with reduced carbon footprint year after year.