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Buildings: Energy Performance

Volume 794: debated on Tuesday 11 December 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps, if any, they plan to take to improve the energy performance of buildings as a contribution towards reducing carbon emissions and achieving the United Kingdom’s climate change obligations.

My Lords, the Government are committed to improving the energy performance of buildings—with some speed, I hope. In the clean growth strategy, we set out our aspiration for domestic properties to achieve energy performance certificate band C by 2035, to reduce business energy use by 20% by 2030, and for the public sector to achieve a 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020-21.

I thank the Minister for his Answer. He will know, of course, that the UK’s performance is falling well below the targets set in the clean development strategy and, indeed, in the figures he just gave. Buildings account for 30% of the UK’s energy emissions. Is it not time to start a major programme of retrofitting existing buildings, particularly homes, thereby saving people’s energy costs and meeting our carbon targets?

My Lords, I accept the importance of buildings in achieving our carbon reduction targets. But I remind the noble Lord, as I have previously, that since 1990 we have reduced our emissions by some 43%; that is the fastest decarbonisation of any G20 country, which is something we can be proud of. As the noble Lord correctly states, it is important that we do this particularly for buildings. The clean growth strategy set out our aspirations for as many homes as possible to be upgraded to an energy performance certificate of band C by 2035, and we will continue to pursue that.

Is the Minister aware that at night many office blocks have the lights blazing all the time? I was in Canary Wharf recently and all the lights were on late at night. Could the Government not take some action on that immediately?

My Lords, one would hope that the owners of those buildings would have the incentive of the cost of lighting those buildings. But the noble Lord ought to be aware that light does not necessarily always consume that much energy, particularly if the owners have switched to LED lights and other forms of lighting that can reduce their carbon footprint. What the noble Lord sees is not necessarily what is happening in terms of energy consumption.

My Lords, I am sure the Minister will agree that one of the simplest forms of retrofit to improve the energy performance of existing homes is loft insulation, yet the Committee on Climate Change, in its 2018 report, notes that loft insulation installation rates are now at their lowest for 10 years. The committee also sets a target for the Government as part of the trajectory to 2050, and the legally binding commitment we have made, of installing loft insulation in the remaining 2.5 million homes where it can be installed simply and effectively, by 2022. Does he also note, and will he comment on the fact, that the current rate of installation will mean that this target is not met until at least 2080?

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that loft insulation is one of the best ways for any householder to reduce the amount of energy they use and have a warmer house. One would hope that there are two motivators here. One, obviously, is price, which should encourage people to buy their insulation and install it. We also offer advice through the Simple Energy Advice service—a new digital approach offering tailored advice to home owners—which has been available online and by telephone since the spring to encourage people to look at ways of insulating their homes.

My Lords, why is it not mandatory for all new buildings to be fitted with energy-saving devices such as solar or photovoltaics?

My Lords, I think the owners of most new buildings go to a great deal of trouble to make sure that they are properly insulated. They have to be insulated up to a certain level. I will write to my noble friend in greater detail. Whether they want to go further and whether that should be mandatory is another question.

I am sure the Minister will agree that improving the energy efficiency of buildings plays a crucial role in tackling fuel poverty and helping to bring down bills for the most vulnerable. According to the Committee on Climate Change, the Government are “off-track” to meet their fourth and fifth carbon budgets. Can the Minister set out to the House what steps, if any, his Government are taking to get back on track?

My Lords, my understanding is that we have met our first carbon budget. We are on track to meet our second and third. I will take advice on where we are on the fourth, and write to the noble Lord.

My Lords, obviously I care about all the environmental aspects of these issues, but measures such as home insulation also create huge amounts of business for small and medium businesses, and thousands of skilled jobs. Why are they not at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy?

My Lords, we are all fully aware that the noble Baroness cares very strongly about the environmental aspects and I assure her that they are at the heart of our industrial strategy. We want to see people take the business opportunities of selling insulation and individuals then taking the opportunity to insulate their home.