Setting a clear path for inexpensive clean energy

The UK Government’s controversial decision to axe the carbon zero home standards has motivated over 200 businesses to call on the Chancellor to reverse the decision and help reinstall investor confidence in the industry.

Approximately 230 firms and companies including some of the UK’s largest in the property and construction industries have written to the Chancellor George Osbourne urging him to reconsider.

At the beginning of July the government’s treasury department announced it was axing the zero carbon building standards for homes that was due to take effect in 2016 for residential properties as well as comparable standards for non-residential properties due to be introduced in 2019.

The open letter to the Chancellor was signed by senior executives from companies including Willmott Dixon, HAB Housing, E.ON and Tata Steel and green business groups including the Green Business Council and the Renewable Energy Association and stated that the signatories were “extremely disappointed to learn that this policy is being arbitrarily scrapped, despite the fact that the necessary primary legislation only acquired Royal Assent in February this year.”

“Since the policy was first launched eight years ago, business has invested heavily in preparing for future standards. This sudden U-turn has undermined industry confidence in Government and will now curtail investment in British innovation and manufacturing in low carbon products and services. There is no evidence to suggest it will increase housing supply or boost productivity.”

“The weakening of standards will mean our future homes, offices, schools and factories will be more costly to run, locking future residents and building users into higher energy bills. It also runs counter to advice from the Committee on Climate Change, impeding our ability to meet our statutory carbon targets cost-effectively at a time when we should be showing international leadership on this issue.”

The new standards would have meant developer would have to adhere to more stringent rules than before in the form of either installing a range of clean energy technologies to their new developments or funding local clean energy instillations.

The standards were thought to have the broad support of the industry however it has been suggested that a number of housebuilders privately lobbied the government that they be shelved citing higher detrimental construction costs should they be applied.

Speaking of the announcement chief executive of the UK Green Building Council Julie Hirigoyen said

“The speed and the stealth with which this administration has destroyed some of the long-term policies supporting the renewable and low carbon industries has been breath-taking,” she said. “We have witnessed an unparalleled wave of support from our members and the wider industry who are deeply concerned about how the government’s sudden, regressive and arbitrary decision to scrap the long established zero carbon policy will impact their business and investment.

“This U-turn not only means our new buildings will be less energy efficient and more costly to run, but it comes at a time when the UK should be taking strong action on climate change ahead of the UN conference in Paris in December. We urge government to reconsider its position for the sake of future confidence in the UK’s low carbon economy.”

A spokeswoman for the Treasury defended the decision to scrap the zero carbon building standards. “The government is not proceeding with the zero carbon buildings policy and instead is giving developers the time they need to build energy efficient homes as required by recent changes to building regulations brought in during the last parliament,” she said.

 

In more positive new the UK’s first non-profit energy supply company was launched in Scotland last week. Our Power Energy has been set up with the aim to cost the cost of energy bill to some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities.

Thirty five organisations including a number of housing associations joined forces to set the new company which plans to market heat and power to over 200,000 consumers by 2020.

The Ofgem licensed supplier of gas and electricity is expected to offer household utility rates at approximately 90% of the standard commercial tariffs to tenants by the end of 2015.

The consortium will purchase the gas and electricity on the wholesale market and due to its non-profit status will be able to offer them to its clients for less than the traditional providers leading to potential savings of more than £10 million to the communities over the next five years.

The company has secured funding of £2.5 million from the Scottish Government and £1 million from Social Investment Scotland.

Alex NeilScottish Social Justice Secretary said: “Fuel poverty is at its highest level in a decade with fuel prices having risen by an inflation-busting 7% between 2012 and 2013.

“A recent investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that millions of energy customers are paying too much for their energy bills.

“That is why the Scottish government has invested £2.5m in Our Power. It will be the first independent and fully-licensed energy supply company registered as a non-profit distributing organisation owned by its members.

“This ground-breaking company will make a real difference to tens of thousands of low income households who are currently disadvantaged in the energy market and struggling to pay their bills.”

The chief executive of Social Investment Scotland Alastair Davis said: “Fuel poverty is a major issue for many households throughout Scotland. However, by removing profit from the equation, Our Power offers a new way of tackling this problem.”

In the future, the company plans to develop renewable energy projects as part of its business for the benefit of local communities.

In a perfect world inexpensive clean energy will be available for all. Projects like the Our Power Company are an excellent starting point for achieving this and it is something we can all admire. However more must be done in order to realise our overall aim.

Inexpensive clean energy can only be accomplished if we all work together. The government must set clear targets and offer initiatives in order to entice investors. In turn the developers and technology providers must use this investment wisely and constructively to ultimately produce clean energy for the benefit of everyone.

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