Plans to scrap green homes policy "beggars belief"

Published:  23 August, 2013

The government's suggestion to scrap the 2008 Planning and Energy Act has been met with widespread criticism by the renewable energy industry.

The Act, promoted by Michael Fallon MP, provides local authorities with the ability to set specific carbon, renewable energy and energy efficiency targets for newbuild properties. The suggestion to remove the Act is part of the government’s consultation on the Housing Standards Review, published earlier this week (20 August).

Dr Nina Skorupsa, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA), said: “How can a government claiming to support both localism and renewable energy suggest doing away with the only policy tool that enables local authorities to promote the use of renewables in new housing?

“It is cheaper to install renewables during construction rather than retrofit, and doing so means the occupants can benefit from lower energy bills from day one. The government should be seeking to future-proof new housing against rising energy prices and make it fit for the 21st century.”

Emma Piercy, head of policy at the Micropower Council, said: “Government’s decision to ‘water down’ the 2013 Building Regulations, and its new proposal on potentially repealing the 2008 Planning & Energy Act, seriously undermines and damages industry confidence in the microgeneration sector.

“Industry has spent the last few years preparing for Zero Carbon Home regulations and these developments send a signal to investors that the government is no longer committed to the 2016 target. The consultation announced yesterday potentially removes the only real driver for renewables in newbuild homes at present, which will result in less investment and put jobs at risk in the industry.”

Stuart Elmes, chair of the Solar Thermal Working Group of the Solar Trade Association, also expressed concern at the possibility of not meeting targets.

“The recent update to Building Regulations was long delayed and introduced lower than expected carbon targets, meaning that the schedule for implementing full Zero Carbon standards (already heavily watered down) in 2016 looks likely to slip even further,” he said. “Local authorities must be given the options to run their own affairs and this should include choosing to build to higher standards of sustainability than the bare minimum.”

Andrew Warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, similarly argued: “The Planning and Energy Act is designed to encourage and empower local planning authorities to go further than the minimum standards for energy efficiency and renewables for new developments. It allows for new housing to be constructed, which is sensitive to local circumstances and can capture local opportunities to increase neighbourhoods’ sustainability and resilience.

“The suggestion to scrap the Act flies in the face of localism, good governance, the path to 2016, and the government’s well-worn claim to be the greenest ever. Set against the backdrop of a watered down minimum standard in the shape of the 2013 Building Regulations, the Act is more important now than it ever has been. At a time when the government could benefit from actions which restore confidence and trust in its relationship with local authorities and industry, the suggestion to scrap the Act quite simply beggars belief and must be dropped.”