Prime Minister Theresa May has committed to halving energy use in new buildings by 2030. The announcement was made during a speech on plans for the role of science and technology in the UK. Reducing energy consumption in new buildings through the use of modern construction practices will help to meet the UK’s carbon targets, as well as delivering lower energy bills.
Julie Hirigoyen from the UK Green Building Council commented: “Now this mission has been set, it will be vital to underpin it with clear and consistent policies. Government should set a trajectory for building regulations to achieve net zero carbon from 2030, as well as introducing long-term incentives for retrofitting homes and commercial buildings”.
The UK currently has a long-term target to reduce emission by 80% (against 1990 levels) by 2050, with a carbon budget set in legislation of a 57% reduction in emissions by 2030. The government recently indicated it will consider tightening the 2050 target to one of net zero emissions, dependent upon advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on the implications this will have for the UK.
The goal of the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, is to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. Countries translate this temperature target into the action they need to tackle emissions by setting “carbon budgets”. The UK is already on track to outperform its carbon budgets out to 2022, with emissions already 42% below 1990 levels in 2016. This was due in large part to emission reductions in the power sector and, therefore, action is now required in areas such as heat and transport. The provision of heating and hot water for buildings make up around 40% of the UK’s energy consumption and 20% of its greenhouse gas emissions.
There is a range of options available to reduce emissions from heat. The Renewables Heat Incentive (RHI) is designed to provide support for the cost of installing renewable heat technologies. As a policy tool, it has been criticised for not delivering as expected. Further to consultation, new non-domestic RHI regulations came into effect in May. One of the new provisions is the introduction of a tariff guarantee for a number of technologies. The new guarantee, which must be applied for in the advance stages of a new project, provides certainty for both the tariff and for eligibility.