Dave Elliott: The UK ‘zero carbon homes’ policy was first announced in 2006 by the then-Labour chancellor Gordon Brown. The initial plan was for all new build houses to be ‘zero emission’ by 2016, with the emphasis heavily on energy saving by good building design and full insulation. It was something of a maximal demand. In the extreme, fully implemented, it could mean no external energy imports at all, with energy demand minimised and then met entirely by ‘on house’ renewables, presumably mostly solar, backed up by biomass and possible micro wind units where viable. It was specified that ‘off-site renewable contributions can only be used where these are directly supplied to the dwellings by private wire arrangement’ i.e. directly from local sources. The aim was clearly to avoid imports of commercial energy via the grid, even if this was wholly or partly green energy. However, after objections from house-builders and developers, based in part on the allegedly high cost of meeting the new energy performance rules, the criteria and rules as outlined in the linked Codes for Sustainable Housing were progressively watered down. For example, on the demand side, it was decided to exclude power used for electronic devices and white goods (e.g. fridges) and that logically enough led on to exclude electricity used to power heat pumps. However, that could be a big concession – heating is the major part of domestic energy use. On the supply side, it was decided that imports from some external grid linked renewables sources could after all be used, along with a range of other so called ‘allowable solutions’, including carbon offsetting i.e. buying in carbon credits from projects like tree planting elsewhere. if all these exceptions and allowable options were taken on board, the Zero Carbon Home might really be more like ‘50% carbon’ or less. Clearly it was on the way out, and in 2015, by which time the Conservatives were ruling alone, the zero carbon goal was in effect scraped, along with linked plans for new building regulations. The announcement on this was made as part of a government report, ‘Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation’, which said the scrapping of the two regulations was designed to ‘reduce net regulations on housebuilders’.
Renew Extra 1st March 2019 read more »