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Zero-Carbon Homes

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 27 July 2010

The coalition programme sets out this Government’s ambitions for a low-carbon and eco-friendly economy, and to be the greenest Government ever. Substantial, and cost-effective, reductions in carbon emissions from buildings will be an essential part of our effort.

Much of that reduction will come from retrofitting the existing housing stock, but new-build homes will need to play an important part. The coalition programme commits to continuous improvements in the energy efficiency of new housing. We need to make sure that our homes in future are cleaner, greener and cheaper to run from the outset. We must also meet the challenge to build more homes.

We will therefore ensure that from 2016 new homes need not add extra carbon to the atmosphere.

Our approach will balance mitigating the impact of new development in carbon terms against the viability of that development. This will involve a flexible approach which sets an ambitious level of energy efficiency and carbon compliance measures in building regulations, and enables developers and local authorities, working together, to achieve zero-carbon. The role of local authorities is central in achieving real reductions in carbon emissions, and we will ensure that they will have their say when it comes to delivering zero-carbon homes.

I am announcing today some important further steps on the route to zero-carbon.

First, I can confirm that we will introduce the minimum standard for fabric energy efficiency based on that set out in the recent consultation on the Code for Sustainable Homes. We will take this forward in the future revisions of part L of the building regulations.

Secondly, we will set a national benchmark carbon compliance standard in building regulations. I will need to be realistic and take account of costs. The Government recognise the challenges posed by the 70% level previously proposed and the case for this needs to be re-examined. Therefore, I am commissioning more work from the Zero-Carbon Hub to test what would be an appropriate level. I have asked the hub to report back on this as early as they can.

There has been considerable interest in giving developers the option to meet their further obligations through payments to fund local energy projects, possibly via an existing local tariff mechanism. We intend to explore the feasibility of this option over the coming months, including how the use of such funds for carbon abatement could complement the delivery of other types of infrastructure. We intend to ensure that local authorities have a prominent role in the design and delivery of funds that may be made available through any payment mechanism. We will work with local authorities and the house building industry to establish the precise details of any potential approach.

To respond to these challenging new standards, industry will need to develop innovative and better integrated design and building methods and technologies; methods which will not only enable them to build new and better homes, but which will make our construction industries more competitive internationally in the coming years. To support these efforts, we will continue to work closely with industry through bodies such as the Zero-Carbon Hub and I can confirm that we have made an allocation of £600,000 for this year to support the hub’s work. We will also work with house builders to assist them in complying with these standards, and those charged with ensuring there is compliance, to ensure that energy and carbon savings are obtained.

This Government are committed to ensuring that all new homes post-2016 can be zero-carbon while ensuring that the costs of new build do not prevent appropriate and sustainable development.