Monday, 20 October 2014

Ministers given zero carbon proposals

The Zero Carbon Hub has published its final report on the energy efficiency standards that all new homes will meet from 2016.

The hub’s report confirms a lowering of targets for offsetting carbon emissions using renewable energy generators such as photovoltaic panels, and rejects calls for local authorities to have a say on zero carbon targets as part of the government’s commitment to localism.

But a number of key decisions, such as how much money developers might pay for ‘allowable solutions’, which are fees used to pay for green infrastructure or possibly retrofit work, have been deferred to the government.

Under previous definitions of zero carbon, developers were expected to use renewable technologies to make up 70 per cent of the 150 per cent reduction in carbon emissions from a home. The hub today confirmed that it would water this down to make zero carbon development viable. The new targets are roughly 60 per cent for detached houses, 56 per cent for other houses and 44 per cent for low-rise apartment blocks.

But developers will now have to demonstrate that their homes meet the zero carbon definition once they have been built, rather than simply using the design of the properties, as before.

A target for high-rise blocks will require further specialised, work, the report says. It also recommends that the government takes regional weather patterns into account when considering whether a development is zero carbon.

The recommendations will now go before housing minister Grant Shapps before a final definition is announced. David Adams, director of the hub, said: ‘These recommendations to the minister represent an important step toward finalising a workable definition for zero carbon homes.

‘Whilst the 2016 commitment may seem some way off, an early statement by ministers in response to these recommendations will further build confidence that the zero carbon objective is achievable and on track to be delivered.’

Readers' comments (14)

  • Sidney Webb

    So zero is to be something considerably more and localism is to be centrally run; and they want this rubber-stamped by Shapps, who gave us unaffordable affordability.

    Next week we learn how black is actually blue and cold is hot, east is west and that the north does not actually exist except in some rather inaccurate history books. These books will be taken from the closed libraries and ceremoniously burned in front of Shapps and Pickles who will be taking the salute from the new army of labour slaves as they are marched off to work.

    I'm now off to speak to my bank manager and explain that my overdraft is really zero, and although my mortgage is with Northern Rock there is every confidence that it was in fact repaid before it was drawn down, so now we are all quits!

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  • Fear & Loathing

    Surely zero is zero - whether it is made up, watered down or at the whim of "regional weather patterns" zero is not 70% of 150% of anything!

    If a house produces no carbon as the result of its heating, lighting & other living activities it is a zero carbon house. Otherwise is is something else - maybe low carbon - maybe unaffordable - but not zero carbon.

    These definitions are certainly not zero nonsense!

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  • Equally confused!!

    How can you reduce carbon emissions from a home by 150%, surely 100 is the limit?

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  • Confused?

    There seems to be couples of things going that have got mixed up:
    The Zero Carbon Hub has published its final report on the energy efficiency standards that all new homes. Please note emphasis on NEW homes. Then the article goes to talk about ‘allowable solution’, retrofit ECT.

    OK, now if the government moved to building fabric and combine these with building regulations there would be little need for renewable energy solutions. Here I’m talking about air tightness, utilising thermals, increased insulation, and modern methods of construction. Very much a cut down Passivhaus house concept.

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  • Sidney Webb

    Please do not suggest to Shapps that we have air-tight houses for social tenants - he may just jump to quickly at the idea!

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  • To be fair to Zero Carbon Hub, they've been dealt a duff hand. The problem comes from the zero carbon fetish from 2006. So much importance was placed on this that the governments (both previous and current) cannot backtrack from this standard. The only option they've left themselves is a re-definition of "zero" - so what should be an engineering and design exercise (such as working out how to implement, for example, Passivhaus across UK) is now a branding exercise. Which is probably quite handy for the current government as branding and PR is all they really know. Farcical. And this state of affairs was being predicted back in 2006.

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  • Let me explain the reasoning behind the "150%" reduction. Zero Carbon was previously defined (some would agree logically) as a house that achieved 100% carbon reductions against the design basecase. However, due to the complex way buildings operate, this only includes regulated energy consumption - lights, heat, hot water etc.
    It did not include, however, what is referred to as "small power" - essentially, what is used by equipment powered by plug sockets. For example, you mobile phone, your hairdryer, your laptop. Industry research and experience suggests that small power accounts for approximately one third of total carbon emissions from residential buildings.
    Hence, amending the previous definition, the revised definition requires a "150%" reduction in carbon emissions in order to be truly zero carbon.
    Check out the (no doubt much more eloquent) official definition here:

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  • Sexton

    Have the Einstein s of central government found out the meaning of zero yet?

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  • Sidney Webb

    Could it be the amount of light that deflects around the Secretary of State?

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  • Melvin Bone

    No home is 'Zero carbon' as they have to build the bloomin' things...

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