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Cost of ‘Zero Carbon Home’ plummets nearly 60% since 2011

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  • Zero-carbon roll-back “hard to justify”
  • STA urges CLG to use solar to “build energy bill anxiety out of UK homes”
  • Local Government power to specify renewables in new build is at risk

The Zero Carbon Hub, an influential public-private partnership, will on Monday publish an updated cost analysis by Sweett Group of its Zero Carbon Standard [1]. The analysis is dominated by the dramatic reductions in the cost of solar PV, which make a major contribution to cutting the cost of building a ‘Zero Carbon’ semi-detached home by 57% compared to its 2011 estimates.

The analysis has implications for the Government’s roll-back of Zero Carbon Homes. The Standard is set to be introduce in 2016, but DCLG made only minor improvements to the energy performance of new build homes last year (Part L Building Regulations), failing to incentivise renewables in new build and calling into question the viability of introducing the Standard on schedule.

The on-site solar industry, and zero carbon skills development in the construction sector, therefore relies solely on Local Government stipulating the (usually modest) inclusion of renewable in new build, often known as ‘the Merton Rule’. This local Government power was secured by Michael Fallon, now Energy Minister, in the Planning and Energy Act 2008. However, in the Housing Standards Review DCLG has consulted on scrapping this measure, which will damage the on-site solar industry, weaken local democracy and lead to higher energy bills.

STA Head of External Affairs Leonie Greene said:

“The latest figures show that it is very affordable to build to this definition of Zero Carbon Homes. Modest additional cost at the construction stage will be recovered by the homeowner in the form of lower energy bills. We now have affordable technologies to build energy bill anxiety out of UK homes. 

“Given the political furore over energy bills, the Government should be 100% behind this. Instead Eric Pickles’ roll back of the Zero Carbon Homes agenda shows he is favouring house-builder profits over homeowners, the renewables targets and the climate. There is a serious risk he will even prevent local Government pursing very modest inclusion of on-site renewables in new build by reversing powers introduced by Michael Fallon. ”

The Hub estimate that bringing a semi-detached house up to its Zero Carbon Standard from today’s building standards would cost £4,100-£4,700 extra, with flats costing just £2,200-£2,400 extra. The STA’s own analysis of an 85m2 semi-detached house suggests the current Zero Carbon Home standard would add £4,200 to build costs, but deliver bill savings of £404 over current 2013 build standards.

This means if energy bills remain static the cost of incorporating new build would be recovered by the homeowner in lower energy bills and Feed-in Tariff payments in less than 10 years. Given energy bills are very unlikely to remain static, the actual time taken to recover Zero Carbon Home investment at the construction stage is likely to be considerably less than 10 years.

The STA has also conducted analysis showing that the cost of solar thermal could be cut by a third when 200,000 units are deployed per annum [2].

Merton Rule standards are typically well below Zero Carbon but are essential to retain the new build solar industry. The most high profile example of this is the London Plan in which over 80% of relevant London developments used renewable energy, with over 75% of those using solar PV. In 2012 this ensured 87,000m2 of solar PV was installed in new build across London. DCLG had said it would provide a ‘direction of travel’ on the Housing Standards Review last month, but it has given no indication thus far.

DCLG is also consulting on ‘allowable solutions’, which mean that homebuilders could potentially deliver renewables elsewhere, rather than reducing the energy bills on the new building/for the benefit of the householder.

STA CEO Paul Barwell said:

 

“We know everyone is concerned to ramp up house-building but the Government has already done a lot to boost the fortunes of developers and it is wrong to conclude that Zero Carbon Homes are a luxury we cannot afford.  The opposite is true – for a relatively modest outlay at the construction stage we would be foolish not to build modern solar technology into new homes to ensure very low energy bills. DCLG has missed this opportunity in its current national new build standards, so it is now essential that allow local authorities are allowed to routinely incorporate solar into new housing and other developments.”

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