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Strategic support for energy efficiency and sustainability

Zero re- re- re-defined

23/03/2011 22:01:42

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A supplementary document entitled ‘The Plan for Growth’ which accompanied the Budget of 23rd March 2011 announced “To ensure that it remains viable to build new houses, the Government will hold housebuilders accountable only for those carbon dioxide emissions that are covered by Building Regulations, and will provide cost-effective means through which they can do this.”


This means that ‘zero carbon’ henceforth means ‘zero regulated emissions’.  In other words, housebuilders no longer need to ensure that emissions from cooking and household appliances are zero.  The overall effect is that the carbon savings from zero carbon homes will now be about two-thirds of what they would have been.


Cutland Consulting’s Director Neil Cutland, who sat on the Zero Carbon Hub’s Carbon Compliance Task Group, said “I freely admit that from day one I've thought that zero carbon should be defined in terms of regulated carbon alone, and that the ENE1 credit in the Code for Sustainable Homes should stop at level 5.  In that context the announcement today actually makes a lot of technical sense to me.


“However, as a demonstration by Government of its commitment to the green agenda, it’s a disaster.  Rightly or wrongly, for six years we’ve ploughed on with the 'regulated AND unregulated' definition of zero carbon, and this change represents a significant backward step in policy terms.  Hard on the heels of a watering-down of the feed-in-tariffs, it sends terrible messages to the industry and further lowers confidence.”


There is now a strong argument for revisiting the work done by the Carbon Compliance Task Group which reported to Government only last month.  This is because (i) the group’s financial analysis used costs and 'learning rates' based on the quantities of various technologies needed to make the prescribed reductions in TOTAL emissions, and (ii) the economics of the (yet to be finalised) Allowable Solutions now need to be re-worked using approximately half of the volumes previously assumed.


Neil added “The Government’s about-face makes a mockery of the thousands (literally) of person-hours which went into the robust technical and financial analysis underpinning the Task Group's report.  It’s also simply rude of Government to so comprehensively disregard the hard work put in on their behalf by so many people entirely free of charge.” 

March 2011

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