COP26: Ensuring the Housing Sector is on Track to Meet Net Zero
By Kingspan Insulation, an Executive Member of the Sustainable Energy Association
As we run up to COP26 during a particularly important decade for climate action, attention must turn to the thorniest issues facing the UK and countries around the globe.
As the host nation, the UK has a leading role to play in tackling the climate crisis and we have seen ambitions accelerate in recent years, with the legislation of a net zero target and a new law to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.
While meeting these targets will require urgent and long-term action from the Government across all sectors, homes and buildings have been described by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) as a significant challenge on the road to net zero.
As we rise to the task of creating a greener future for generations to come, we must therefore see steps put in place by the Government to empower the housing sector to play a pivotal role in delivering climate progress. Anything less could mean that the UK misses its climate targets altogether.
To put this into perspective, if we continue to reduce emissions from buildings at the current pace, it will take us over 235 years to bring them to net zero, according to the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).
Yet to meet net zero, we only have until 2050.
In less than three decades, household emissions from heating and hot water will in fact need to reduce by 95% with millions of properties needing improvements. Achieving this will require energy efficiency upgrades in 10 million owner occupied homes and 3 million private rented properties in England alone.
It’s fair to say that while emissions from buildings have fallen by 14% in the last decade, progress and ambition have fallen short in comparison to what is needed to reach net zero.
Kingspan Insulation, an Executive Member of the Sustainable Energy Association, recently published a policy paper, highlighting the steps that could be taken by the Government to put the housing sector on the right track through the implementation of a fabric first approach.
This will be essential to driving down carbon emissions from buildings by reducing heat demand through energy efficiency improvements installed prior to or alongside low carbon heating systems, which also have a key role to play in the transition to net zero.
If all solid wall properties that are currently uninsulated were indeed insulated prior to the installation of a heat pump, up to 48 TWh of annual electricity consumption and over £8.9 billion of annual fuel bills in England could in fact be saved. Not every property will be practicable or appropriate to improve, so it is doubly important that we do improve as many as is possible, to the best extent practicable and appropriate, so as to compensate for those where it is not.
It is essential that a long term, stable policy framework is therefore established to support the implementation of a fabric first approach and empower the sustainable growth of the energy efficiency sector in the years ahead.
This could be achieved through the introduction of the following:
- A replacement for the Green Homes Grant, which should ideally be a multi-year scheme lasting for at least the life of this Parliament
- A ‘multi measures’ obligation under ECO4
- Mandatory home assessments (including heat loss calculations) under the Clean Heat Grant, and an increase in the minimum SPF under the scheme to above 2.5
- Additional trigger points for EPC assessments, such as renovations and applications for green finance
- Building Renovations Passports (BRPs), with preparations to ultimately introduce the same trigger points for BRPs as for EPC Assessments in the long term.
The UK has a huge opportunity this November to take the lead in the discussion around how to minimise energy demand and carbon emissions, and there are high hopes that decisions taken in the run up to the summit will see plans to decarbonise the way we heat our homes begin to take shape. I am hopeful that the keenly awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy will form part of this journey by promoting a fabric first approach and addressing the recommendations above. Adopting this approach is a no regrets option and is technology agnostic, levelling the playing field across low carbon heating and ensuring the path to decarbonising heat is sustainable.
Read the full paper here.