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Improving energy efficiency of buildings ‘a national priority’ say MPs

Shutterstock zero carbon houses
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All UK buildings need to become more energy efficient if the UK is to meet its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, MPs have warned

The cross-party Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee said ministers needed to drive a step change in the way power was used in the built environment.

Outgoing prime minister Theresa May last month pledged to ensure the UK offsets as much carbon as it produces by the middle of this century.

But in a report titled Building towards net zero, the committee said the UK’s building stock remained ‘one of the most inefficient in Europe’ despite government policy to improve it.

‘A major upgrade of the energy performance of the UK’s entire building stock will be a fundamental pillar of any credible strategy to reach net zero emissions, address fuel poverty and cut energy bills,’ said the study.

‘If the government will not back energy efficiency, one of the cheapest ways to reduce our carbon emissions, it will not bode well for the other, costlier actions required for decarbonisation.’

The committee said it found a ‘profound disparity’ in the amount of cash invested in residential energy efficiency schemes per capita in England and the devolved nations.

‘While there is a clear and substantial investment gap that needs addressing, we are concerned that the government has set targets for energy efficiency without having a clear grasp of how much public investment is required to meet them,’ said the report.

‘We conclude that improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s building stock is a national infrastructure priority and recommend that it is designated as such by the government.’

John Alker, director of policy and places at the UK Green Building Council, said the report highlighted the ‘irony’ that policy was ‘falling short’ on energy efficiency in buildings despite it being ‘one of the cheapest ways of meeting our legally binding carbon targets’.

‘The good news is that there are clear and immediate opportunities for the government to address this failure,’ he added. ‘Most obviously by driving better energy performance in new housing in the imminent update to Building Regulations, and using the Comprehensive Spending Review to kickstart much-needed investment in our inefficient existing stock.

Comment

Alan Vallance, RIBA chief executive
It is extremely concerning that the UK’s building stock is so inefficient compared with its European neighbours. As this report by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee recognises, if the UK is to deliver net zero carbon by 2050, energy efficiency in buildings must be made a national infrastructure priority.

The RIBA has recently declared an environment and climate emergency – architects and the built environment sector must be at the forefront of delivering a zero-carbon future.

John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission
With 22 per cent of carbon emissions coming from heating alone, creating more energy efficient homes can make a huge contribution to achieving the UK’s Net Zero ambitions. 

Our National Infrastructure Assessment calls on government to rapidly accelerate the pace of energy efficiency improvements so that 21,000 measures, such as floor, wall and loft insulation, are being delivered each week.

This should cover all types of property and include significant funding for improvements to council and housing association homes, as endorsed by the committee.

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