New Year Brings New Direction To Heat Decarbonisation
The Government saw out 2020 with promises of a ‘green industrial revolution’, but a major Christmas present for industry would have been the publication of the Heat and Buildings Strategy, argues Jade Lewis, Chief Executive of the SEA.
Numerous announcements from the government in the build-up to Christmas served to outline the direction of travel regarding decarbonisation. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan was among them, complete with a series of significant commitments to deliver a ‘green industrial revolution’. These commitments include ramping up trials of hydrogen with the aim of creating a hydrogen town by 2030; accelerating the ban on combustion engines; and deploying 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028.
Alongside that Ten Point Plan, the government committed to a requirement for mortgage lenders to disclose the average Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of their property portfolios. Buried in the details, proposals were also laid out to use next year’s Energy Bill to introduce mandatory energy efficiency standards for homeowners. This would be a major step forward in driving sustained demand for energy efficiency and low-carbon heat in owner-occupier homes, where EPC ratings are lower than in privately-rented tenures or social housing. This is welcome news to the Sustainable Energy Association; the SEA’s EPC Band C campaign; along with others across industry, has played a significant role in reaching this point.
The Spending Review followed and reiterated many of the pledges seen in the Ten Point Plan, but also confirmed a new £150m Home Upgrades Grant (HUG) scheme to retrofit fuel-poor households. While this is still under development, we can expect it to focus on upgrading the worst- performing homes, targeting those that are not connected to the gas grid.
The Spending Review also pledged a further £475m to make public buildings greener through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme and £122m for heat networks. Disappointingly, it looks like the extension of the Green Homes Grant will in fact be a separate scheme – this means the £1.5bn allocated to the current six-month scheme will not roll over into the next financial year. Instead, £320m has been allocated for the voucher scheme from April 2021 to March 2022.
Elephant in the Room
By the time you read this, we will have left the festive season behind, but there is hope for more policy announcements either before or just after the New Year; the Committee on Climate Change will have published its Sixth Carbon Budget, which will have a major role in steering long-term government policy; the government is due to respond to the Future Homes Standard consultation and the review of Building Regulations for new domestic properties is expected soon; and the Energy White Paper is due for release any time between now and the spring.
There are fears that the government may delay publication of the strategy.
The elephant in the room is, of course, the Heat and Buildings Strategy, which has been delayed for the second time this year. This is due to set out the long-term strategy for the decarbonisation of the UK’s building stock and should join the dots between an increasingly busy landscape of policy announcements. With COP26 under a year away, there are fears that the government may delay the publication of the strategy again, to mid-2021.
While publication would position the UK as leaders in addressing climate change ahead of the conference, it would fail to provide the long-term certainty the industry needs now to make strategic plans and investments for the future. The need for certainty should not be overlooked and we urge the government to release the Heat and Buildings Strategy as soon as possible.
A blog by Jade Lewis.
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The article is taken from H&V News’ January Edition.