MPs urged to back Zero Carbon Homes

MPs have been urged to back new amendments to the Infrastructure Bill which would beef up carbon emissions standards for newly built homes.

The Infrastructure Bill, which also features divisive fracking regulations, will be debated and voted on for the third and final time in the Commons today (26 December).

The Government’s Zero Carbon Homes standard was effectively watered down last year, allowing developers to offset their carbon emissions by paying into a fund, rather than delivering carbon reduction measures on site.

But these extra cost would be passed on to consumers, meaning new-home buyers will effectively be paying a carbon tax without enjoying lower energy bills, according to a green coalition including the Renewable Energy Association (REA), Solar Trade Association (STA), WWF and Greenpeace.

Consequently, the group support amendments to the Bill proposed by Labour MPs, which would put the back UK on track to build zero-carbon homes from 2016.

WWF head of climate and energy policy Emma Pinchbeck said: “At a time when people are struggling to pay their energy bills and the UK is showing climate leadership on the global stage, we should be legislating for better housing not worse.”

“Reducing emissions from our homes is critical in tackling climate change and doing so from newly built homes is much easier, and cheaper, than retrofitting at a later date. It just doesn’t make sense to make keeping our homes warm and reducing our carbon emissions harder than it needs to be.”

Solar saver

Paradoxically, the watering down of the zero-carbon homes target has come as the cost of solar PV – the most popular onsite technology – has plummeted.

The Solar Trade Association claims that if solar is used to meet standards beyond minimum insulation levels there is only a few hundred pounds difference in building costs per home between the recommended standard and the Government’s weaker proposals. The difference in cost would reportedly be quickly recovered in a few years by the home owner through lower energy bills.

These claims are given additional weight by the recent surge in the number of solar panels installed on UK housing, as according to Decc figures released last Friday, 125,000 UK homes put solar panels on their roofs.

The numbers also show that a total of 700MW of solar, the equivalent of powering 212,000 homes, was installed on buildings and in ground-mounted solar farms thanks to the Feed in Tariff over the course of the year.

Commenting on the figures, STA business analyst David Pickup said: “These latest statistics show that the FiT solar PV market is seeing healthy growth with plenty of solar going up on domestic and commercial roofs as well as small solar farms.”

“We are particularly pleased to see good levels of growth in the large rooftop market with 33MW of solar – 164 installations – installed in the last three months of 2014, more than double that in the previous quarter.”

Brad Allen

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