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Why does it matter to save energy?

Eco HouseThe Clean Growth Strategy: will it deliver?

'As many homes as possible to be EPC band C by 2035' - one of the proposals contained in the government's Clean Growth Strategy. Critics point to a lack of detail about how this will be achieved.

The government's long-awaited plan to further reduce the UK's carbon emissions has been published. The 'Clean Growth Strategy' sets out 50 policies and proposals covering all key sectors, which it hopes will see the nation transformed into a low-carbon economy, able to meet its emissions targets under the 2008 Climate Change Act.. The Strategy has two guiding objectives: to meet our carbon reduction targets in the cheapest way possible; and to maximise social and economic benefits. Hence the phrases 'cost-effective' and 'affordable' abound!

In his Foreword to the 165-page document, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark describes the challenge: "If we get it right, we will not just deliver reduced emisisons, but also cleaner air, lower energy bills for households and businesses, an enhanced natural environment, good jobs and industrial opportunity."

While the Strategy has been give a cautious welcome by many, particularly in committing funding to a range of areas, it has been criticized for being thin on detail about implementation. Poppy Maltby of Regen SW described it as 'more of a timetable than a strategy with significant policy announcements.' Similarly, Gareth Redmond-King of WWF said: 'The Strategy's ambition is to be welcomed, however, the details fall short of what we need to lead the UK to a green and prosperous future'.

So what are the headline policies in housing and transport?

Housing

  • Support for energy efficiency improvements through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) until 2028.
  • Target for all fuel-poor homes to be at least band C on the Energy Performance Certificate by 2030. Aspiration for all homes to meet this target by 2035.
  • Energy efficiency standards for rented homes to be tightened.
  • Phaseout of 'high-carbon' fossil fuel heating in homes off the gas grid, during the 2020s, starting with new homes.
  • Consult on best ways to encourage householders to invest in energy efficiency improvements.
  • Improved standards for new boilers.
  • Reform of the Renewable Heat Incentive, encouraging greater uptake of heat pumps and biomethane.

Transport

  • £1 billion pledged to support take-up of ultra-low emisison vehicles (ULEVs)Cycling
  • Develop the charging infrastructure, with an additional £80 million
  • Support for the Plug-in Taxi programme, with £50 million promised to subsidise purchase of ULEV taxis.
  • £100 million support for retrofitting and new low-emission buses
  • £1.2 billion to 'make walking and cycling the natural choice for shorter journeys.
Improvements in cycling and walking infrastructure to the tune of £1.2 billion are promised for 2016-2021.

What's missing? - a flavour

  • Tightening of standards for new homes, and for solid wall insulation, is on hold until after the Hackett Review of fire safety is published, expected Spring 2018.
  • No policies yet to encourage takeup of energy efficiency measures by households that do not meet the criteria for ECO funding.
  • Small-scale renewables after FITs? Options for incentives beyond 2019 are being considered, but no details.

Other sectors

The document contains a raft of other measures to improve energy efficiency for business and industry, reduce carbon emission in the power sector, and maximise the benefits of managing land and other natural resources effectively. All the initiatives can be viewed on the GOV.UK website.

Missed targets

In spite of all the measures outlined in the document, it admits that the emissions targets for the carbon budget periods 2023-27 and for 2028-32 are likely to be missed, by 6% and nearly 10% respectively. The Strategy blithely suggests exploiting 'flexibilities' in the accounting mechanism, such as offsetting previous surpluses aginst anticipated future deficits. Gareth Redmond-King of WWF is scathing: 'The UK government has much more work to do in putting forward credible policies to close a carbon gap of nearly 10% by 2032."

Read further analysis of the document on the Energy Saving Trust website.