28 Mar 2009

Heat and Energy Saving Strategy consultation: first thoughts

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I'm still on my blog holiday but before I switched off my computer, folks on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change emailed me to say they have found my blog and thought I'd be interested in knowing about the Government's new Heat and Energy Saving Strategy consultation....hey that was a long sentence - see I needed this break - back at end of month...

The aim is apparently to spread the word so that the government can collect not only my, but my readers views on the policies they think the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) should use to help achieve their objectives on energy saving and low-carbon heat. Blog readers can join in the consultation here.

Here is a brief overview of what is planned

Electricity accounts for 22% and heating 41% of the UK's CO2 emissions. Heating also accounts for 60% of average domestic energy bills, which means conserving heat should be a high priority in existing buildings. There are four main objectives that the Heat and Energy Saving Strategy is attempting to address:

  • reduce energy bills by using less energy
  • reduce carbon emissions and increase use of renewable energy
  • help maintain secure, diverse energy supplies
  • take advantage of a shift to a low carbon economy.

All of these objectives should be met in a way that recognises the urgency of reducing carbon emissions; that is accessible to everyone; allows changes to be made easily; and designed through better regulation.

The Strategy sets out four milestones for the success of this strategy:

  • 2015 all loft and cavity walls will be insulated
  • 2020 up to 7 million homes will have the opportunity to take up more substantial ‘whole house' changes and all homes to have smart meters.
  • 2030 all homes and other buildings will have received a package that covers all cost-effective measures available for that property at that time
  • 2050 emissions from buildings are as close to zero as possible.

And some comments...

I've not completed my comments yet, but it is clear there is much to welcome among the 300 or so pages of this strategy. It covers a wide range of important issues, from energy efficiency measures to decarbonising the heat we use for our homes and businesses, to better communication with consumers. However I do also have some real and huge concerns - simply setting a target is not enough - meeting targets requires urgent action. Yet this is yet another consultation that further undermines the urgency of tackling climate change and ignores the huge economic benefits of ambitious environmental protection measures.

One of the biggest questions is around funding. At the moment, the proposals appear to rely heavily on extending existing measures like CERT. The Government must introduce tax incentives to motivate mass market behaviour change – without these, the impact of the proposals will be very limited. There is also a potential problem known as the ‘rebound effect’ ie people spend the money they save from lower fuel bills on other carbon-emitting activities like a flight to a European city for the weekend. This means that we must put efforts to decarbonise our energy use at least as high as energy efficiency measures. Again this is about behavioural change: sustainable refurbishment is about much more than insulation, U values and low carbon heating systems.

Here is a comment from the Local Government Info Unit: A Heat and Energy Saving Strategy is a crucial part of the climate change jigsaw. Carbon emissions from existing buildings are difficult to tackle and need dedicated delivery models to enable people to reduce emissions from their buildings. In particular the new community approach with a focus on the whole house rather than one off solutions seems eminently sensible. Local authorities will want to access the CESP to support their work in reducing per capita carbon emissions and fuel poverty. Unfortunately this strategy does not seem to make the path to tackling the problem simpler. While efforts are made to remove regulatory burden and provide access to information, the resulting list of programmes and incentives will surely be baffling to most people trying to access these measures. There will need to be more clarity about the seperate positions in practice of CERT and CESP. With this in mind local authorites might want to think about their relationship with other delivery bodies in their community and bring together some co-ordination.

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