Green 'MOT' needed for homes

Annual checks to assess the energy efficiency of our homes could provide a wake-up call to encourage landlords and homeowners to take action on insulation and other easy-win measures to cut the bills.

This is one of the suggestions made in a report from Government think tank Foresight.

The study, Powering Our Lives: Sustainable Energy Management and the Built Environment spells out how reducing energy use in buildings is the cheapest, most effective option for cutting the UK's carbon footprint.

It also draws attention to the problem of existing housing stock, saying that while targets have been set to rescue the carbon emissions of new buildings, upgrading those that are already there is an urgent priority.

The study also advocate more localized energy generation, so that any losses in transmission of electricity or heat are reduced. Options put forward include solar hot water panels on individual homes, combined heat and power systems for blocks of flats, or larger power plants in city centres or a rural areas.

Persuading people to change their day-today habits could also have a significant effect, says the report, whether that be as simple as turning off devices not in use or more far-reaching.

"People have not yet responded at the scale and pace needed to meet future emissions targets," said the report.

"The benefits for doing so need to be made clear and incentives offered."

Professor John Beddington, the Government's chief scientific adviser and director of the Foresight Programme, said: "The energy used to power buildings is responsible for over 50% of UK carbon emissions.

"Urgent action needs to be taken if we are going to meet the 80% emissions target outlined by the Government in the Climate Change Bill.

"We need to think again about how we produce and use energy and this report explores the link between the energy we use to power our lives and the places we use it in.

"Today's study offers a range of proposals for Government to consider on energy production while giving food for thought to all of us about the energy we use".

The report concludes that there is no magic bullet to reduce carbon emissions or decarbonise the energy we use.

However, it does propose behavioural and regulatory changes which could be introduced over the next 50 years, to overcome this inertia.

Sam Bond



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