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Zero Carbon Homes and Non-domestic Buildings

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 17 December 2008

Today I am publishing a consultation on the definition of zero carbon homes and zero carbon non-domestic buildings, and a supporting impact assessment on zero carbon homes. These documents will be placed in the Library of the House.

In July 2007, following a full consultation, Communities and Local Government published “Building a Greener Future”—policy statement. This stated that all new homes would be zero carbon from 2016. In 2010, and 2013, building regulations would be strengthened to reduce carbon emissions by 25 per cent and 44 per cent as stepping stones towards that goal. Budget 2008 announced our ambition that new public sector non-domestic buildings would be zero carbon from 2018, and other new non-domestic buildings would be zero carbon from 2019.

The consultation being published today seeks views on:

a definition of zero carbon homes which would significantly reduce carbon emissions while allowing for a combination of on-site, near-site and off-site solutions; and

the feasibility and timetable for achieving a similar standard for new non-domestic buildings.

Zero Carbon Homes

In “Building a Greener Future”, we described a zero carbon home as having zero net emissions of carbon dioxide from all energy used to run the home, including an allowance for appliances, over the course of a year. We anticipated that this would be achieved through low and zero carbon energy sources installed on-site or directly connected to the development, although recognised that offsetting may be required in some developments. Industry called for early certainty as to the definition to enable them to plan. Meanwhile, technical work carried out for the 2016 Task Force, which oversees implementation of the policy, indicated that near-site and off-site solutions would be necessary to reach the zero carbon standard in a larger number of homes.

The detailed definition proposed in this consultation document maintains the ambition in building a greener future, and makes proposals for when and how near-site and off-site solutions may be used in achieving zero carbon homes. The proposals recognise the potential for carbon emissions from energy use in homes to be tackled through community scale heat and renewable energy generation, or exports of heat from a home to its surroundings. The aim of the proposals is to frame an ambitious but achievable objective that will greatly enhance standards of homes while promoting innovation and providing certainty to industry.

Under the proposals set out, a zero carbon home will need to:

incorporate high levels of energy efficiency;

achieve at least a minimum level of reductions in carbon emissions—compared to current building regulations—through a combination of energy efficiency, on-site low and zero carbon energy supply and directly connected heat; and

tackle remaining emissions from a menu of good quality “allowable solutions” such as community scale heat or energy generation.

Significant issues for debate through this consultation include:

the overall level of ambition on energy efficiency, i.e. how far regulations should push standards for the fabric of the home;

the minimum level of carbon reduction to be achieved onsite—including through connections to heat networks—; and

the range of allowable solutions proposed and the maximum cost that it would be reasonable to expect to be spent, per tonne of carbon dioxide, on the allowable solutions in order to achieve the zero carbon homes standard.

This maximum cost will inform a further review of the allowable solutions, which we propose to undertake in 2012, once we have a clearer picture on the extent and cost of allowable solutions that will be available by 2016.

Non-domestic buildings

Evidence on energy usage in non-domestic buildings is less developed than that for homes, but it is clear that it varies greatly from building to building according to their use. Office buildings, factories, shops, hospitals are all constructed differently and use energy in different ways, because of the very different purposes that they serve. The Government maintains its ambition that all new non-domestic buildings will be zero carbon from 2019 but recognises the need to improve the evidence base before determining the right way forward in order to realise this ambition. We are therefore taking this opportunity to set out our current thinking, inviting views and submissions of evidence to supplement our analysis. A more detailed consultation will be held during 2009.

Next steps

The consultation will close on 18 March 2009 and will be followed, in summer 2009, by a policy statement on zero carbon homes and a further, in-depth consultation on zero carbon non-domestic buildings. In early 2009, we will also be consulting, on the amendments to be made to the building regulations in 2010 in order to achieve an interim reduction of 25 per cent of emissions, as the first step along the way to the zero carbon homes standard.