Energy Environment Housing

Low carbon housing for future generations. What challenges and opportunities lie ahead?

On 24 October, the Assembly will debate the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs (CCERA) Committee’s report on Low Carbon Housing: The Challenge.

19 October 2018

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

On 24 October, the Assembly will debate the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs (CCERA) Committee’s report on Low Carbon Housing: The Challenge.

Our recently published blog provides background on the legislative context and progress on climate change mitigation in Wales.  In June, the UK Committee on Climate Change (UK CCC) published its 2018 Progress Report to Parliament. It showed that in Wales, total emissions increased by 5% in 2016, following falls in emissions in 2014 and 2015. Since 1990, emissions in Wales have fallen by 14%, which is some way off from the Welsh Government’s Climate Change Strategy (2010) (PDF, 2.8MB) non-statutory target of a 40% reduction by 2020, with the UK CCC believing the target is very likely to be missed.

The latest figures from the UK CCC show that in Wales, emissions from residential buildings accounted for 8% of total emissions, and were 25% lower than 1990 levels. They increased by 2% in 2016, following a 16% decrease in 2014 and a 3% increase in 2015. Under the EU Energy Performance in Buildings Directive 2010, all new buildings are required to be built to a “near zero energy” standard by the end of 2020. Although the UK is leaving the EU, this legislation will still apply.

What the Committee recommended

“There are many reasons why we should improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock. The most pressing is the need to deliver on legal obligations to eliminate fuel poverty and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases […] Achieving the targets will require a considerable ramping up of ambition and must span the whole of Wales’ policy levers.”

The CCERA Committee made 13 recommendations. These include:

  • The Welsh Government must prepare and publish a ten year low carbon housing strategy. The strategy must include milestones and targets and must deliver within its lifetime:
    • The retrofit of all houses in fuel poverty in Wales to zero carbon in operation standards;
    • All new build houses in Wales to be built to zero carbon in operation standards;
    • A complimentary planning and building system with low carbon and energy efficiency at their centres, and supported by rigorous, independent, inspection regimes;
    • Financial incentives to encourage buyers and owners to buy low carbon housing and invest in retrofit measures;
    • Funding interventions that maximise the impact of Welsh Government investment in low carbon housing; and
    • A fully trained workforce, ready to construct and improve homes using the latest technologies.

On new build housing, the Welsh Government should:

  • Revise Part L of the building regulations to increase the required energy efficiency of new homes. It should set out a clear timetable to move to zero-carbon in operation, so that house builders, the supply chain and skills providers can prepare for these changes.

On retrofit, the Welsh Government should:

  • Undertake and publish within the next 12 months a comprehensive cost and benefit analysis of retrofitting to zero carbon in operation all households that are in fuel poverty.

On construction skills:

  • Training and skills in the construction sector should be central to the Welsh Government’s long-term low carbon housing strategy.

On funding and finance, the Welsh Government should:

  • Prepare and publish within the next 12 months a report on the options available to it to leverage funding to deliver low carbon housing at scale; and
  • Work with major mortgage providers in Wales to incentivise preferential lending rates for low carbon homes.

Welsh Government response

The Welsh Government accepted four of the recommendations, with a further six accepted in principle. It rejected a further three. The Welsh Government told the Committee that it is currently developing a new programme of actions to support the decarbonisation of homes in Wales by 80% by 2050. It said it is developing the programme using specifically commissioned independent research, and the Decarbonisation of Homes Advisory Group. The Group’s report is due to be submitted to Ministers in Summer 2019. The Group has been asked by Welsh Government to:

Recommend appropriate types of action and support that might be taken by all key stakeholders to deliver a programme in the short, medium and long term;

Analyse the costs, value, levers, incentives/disincentives, challenges and opportunities represented by individual and collective sets of action;

Recommend appropriate types of support and interventions needed to achieve the aims of the programme; and

Consider how actions might be implemented e.g.  by tenure, area income or construction type or a combination of all these approaches.

It also says that the challenge of new homes will be dealt with through building regulations.

Article by Chloe Corbyn, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
Image from Flickr by Jeremy Segrott.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

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