Originally published as a column for Inside Housing.
In so far as it can be called a strategy, the government’s plan for heat and buildings largely relies on the private sector plus regulation to deliver its ambitious targets for net zero in housing.
What ‘new’ money there is – £800m for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, £950m for Home Upgrade Grants – seems mostly to consist of allocations from sums already promised in the Conservative manifesto.
The exception seems to be £450m for a Boiler Upgrade Scheme that will fund 90,000 replacement heat pumps over the next three years, with the government arguing that this will prime the market for its ‘ambition’ of 600,000 a year for the next three years.
But that mismatch only highlights the contrast with Labour’s pledge of £60bn investment over the next 10 years and the Climate Change Committee’s estimate that it will cost a total of £250bn to decarbonise housing by 2050.
There is an even bigger gap between the strategy’s rhetoric about net zero and the reality that bringing as many homes as possible up to EPC band C by 2035 will involve costly retrofits. Around 60 per cent of existing homes are below EPC C.
And there are still big questions about whether new technologies will work, how decarbonisation will be delivered and how the targets and standards will be enforced.Read the rest of this entry »
Ministers once promised that Britain would lead the world on zero carbon homes. Do we now just lead the world in hot air?
The 2016 target for all new homes to be zero carbon seemed genuinely revolutionary when Gordon Brown and housing minister Yvette Cooper first announced it in 2006. Questions about practicalities and costs were brushed aside as they argued that the target would spark the mass adoption of new technologies, drive down costs and even open up vast new export markets for British firms. As Cooper put it at the time:
‘In 10 years, all new homes should be built at a zero carbon rating. No other country has set that sort of timetable or ambition but I believe that we need to do it to drive the environmental technologies of the future and ensure that we are building the homes of the future.’
Eight years, and six housing ministers, later and today’s Queen’s Speech promises that ‘legislation will allow for the creation of an allowable solutions scheme to enable all new homes to be built to a zero carbon standard’. So far, so good. The Liberal Democrats even reached back to the days of Brown and Cooper with their claim on Monday of ‘Britain to lead world on zero carbon homes’. Read the rest of this entry »