New fuel poverty strategy for England doesn’t really cut it

Written by Garry Felgate on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

garry

The Government has today published its new fuel poverty strategy for England. While welcoming the intention to bring the homes of the fuel poor up to a high energy efficiency standard, we believe the target date of 2030 is far too long to wait. We also believe that all low income households – not just those that are fuel poor today – should be improved.

It is cost-effective and practicable to improve the homes of all 6 million low income households to a C energy rating by 2025 – with 2m improved to this level by 2020. If we just focus on fuel poor households, other low income households will simply drop into fuel poverty if their circumstances change negatively or fuel prices rise.

Finally, we are worried about the caveat that households will only be improved ‘as far as reasonably practicable’. This should be removed or at the very least tightly defined to ensure that it cannot be used by future Governments as an excuse for failing to implement the strategy. While there may occasionally be circumstances in which reaching the target is impossible or prohibitively expensive, a blanket caveat is simply a recipe for delay and inaction.

We raised all of these concerns when the Government published and consulted on its draft strategy last year. We are disappointed that our concerns, shared by countless others in the NGO and academic communities, have been ignored.

Kick out this absurd policy

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

andreweibi2013

Buy a new home from a small company. And guarantee higher fuel bills, increasing emissions and general confusion between regulators and consumers. Sounds like a poor deal all round, both for the purchaser, and the marketing prospects for smaller construction companies?

I would agree. But nonetheless Communities Secretary Eric Pickles seems determined to foist this absurd proposal onto the marketplace as soon as possible.

Since 2006 it is has been agreed policy among the three major political parties that all new homes built from 2016 should emit zero carbon. This became legally binding (albeit by 2019) under the 2010 recast of the European Energy Performance of Buildings directive.

Is Eric Pickles implementing a scorched earth policy ahead of the election?

Written by Pedro Guertler on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

DECC DEC

Today, the Department for Communities and Local Government published a consultation which proposes to abolish Display Energy Certificates in England and Wales. DECs show actual energy consumption of public buildings on an A to G rating scale and need to be prominently displayed.  They are required annually for public buildings over 1,000m2, and every 10 years for buildings between 500m2 and 1,000m2. So far, 54,000 public buildings have them.

They raise public awareness of energy consumption in public buildings, make the sector more accountable for their energy consumption to tax-payers, and act as a driver and tool to reduce energy consumption in buildings and convince building owners to invest. The rating on a DEC can be improved by both energy efficiency works and by getting building users to cut back on unnecessary energy use (Energy Performance Certificates don’t register the latter). According to a study cited in the consultation itself, public buildings with DECs reduced their energy consumption by 2% more than their private sector counterparts between 2008 and 2009, just one year into their introduction. Little surprise that in 2011, David Cameron promised to extend the requirement for DECs to buildings in the commercial sector.

Despite this rollout to the private sector being supported by the CBI and the British Property Federation, Government reneged on that promise. Now they are proposing to row back to an extent that beggars belief. CLG says that abolishing DECs would save public authorities £760,000 each year.

When the Department of Energy and Climate Change moved into Whitehall Place, its DEC had a rating of G. That caught our attention – and the attention of countless others who visited the building.  The unflattering spotlight being shone on the Department will have played its part in stinging them into action and they’ve since improved their building’s energy consumption to a rating of C, saving £156,000 annually in the process. In one building (yes, a fairly large one). One building out of 54,000. Five such cases would exceed CLG’s savings estimate. The Government should make good on its original promise and extend DECs to the commercial sector, not abolish them. This staggering case of money-saving myopia must be stopped in its tracks.

Stark choice ahead on emissions trading

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

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The European Union emissions trading scheme – the EU:ETS – is a wonderfully bold experiment. A tremendous example of ten years of cross-border co-operation between 28 sovereign states, attempting to combat one of the greatest threats to mankind.

Even so, it needs to be altered dramatically. And if it really cannot be changed, so it can for the first time deliver real carbon savings, then it must be side-lined in importance – even (reluctantly) scrapped.

It is now exactly ten years since the trading scheme began operating. That it ever managed to do so was a great tribute to the dogged determination of those at the European Commission who – together with executives from a couple of the big power utilities – had championed it despite a background of incredulous scoffing at their apparent over-ambition by the Bush Administration in the US and business-as-usual mouthpieces across Europe.

The UK’s hidden agenda

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

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Heads of European Governments have ignored all the evidence on energy efficiency and failed to set binding targets. What was behind the UK’s opposition?

Not that long ago, I recall visiting the offices of those overseeing UK energy policy, to be greeted with a large poster that read: “Real Men Build Power Stations.” How things have changed, you might think.

The International Energy Agency now routinely describes energy efficiency as “the first fuel” option. This March the heads of the 28 European Union governments unanimously agreed that increasing investment in energy efficiency should be the “first step” taken to reduce energy imports and increase energy security.

The day after he became Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey launched the Energy Efficiency Deployment Office, promising that improving energy saving would be his “number one priority.”

We are all donkeys

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

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On average, we are all 18 per cent wealthier in real terms than we were at the start of the century. On average, we are achieving this increase in affluence while using 14 per cent less energy than in 2000.

One way this turnaround has been achieved is by treating us all like donkeys.

There are three ways to get donkeys to do things. You wave a carrot in front of their noses. You bash them on the rump with a stick. And most importantly, around their ears, you rattle away on a tambourine. All to get the donkey’s attention.

‘Building the Future’ hits the nail on the head

Written by Joanne Wade on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

Joanne Wade

ACE today welcomed the publication of ‘Building the Future: the economic and fiscal impacts of making homes energy efficient‘.  This report, by Verco and Cambridge Econometrics for the Energy Bill Revolution, sets out clearly how making our homes more energy efficient is an infrastructure investment that delivers high Value for Money through reduced energy bills and NHS costs, increased tax revenue for the Government, higher employment, increases in company profits and carbon emissions reductions.

When the Prime Minister tried to justify the government’s decision to block a binding European energy efficiency target last week, he focused on the need to reduce carbon emissions ‘at the lowest possible cost for businesses and consumers‘ As demonstrated by the report, energy efficiency investment goes beyond the Prime Minister’s requirement and actually delivers net benefits for businesses (£15bn in cumulative, additional (discounted) profits to 2035, consumers (£8.6 billion per year) and the Government itself (£1.27 in tax revenue for every £1 invested).

Achieving the level of energy efficiency improvement modelled in the report will require policy action to invest on behalf of low income households and to support investment by able-to-pay households, and we urge Mr Cameron to honour his commitment to energy efficiency, and back up his commitment to carbon emissions reduction with the action needed to deliver it at net benefit to the UK.

EU 2030 energy efficiency target sends all the wrong signals to investors and means 56m Europeans will continue to live in cold homes

Written by Jenny Holland on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

jenny

ACE has reacted angrily today to the news that European leaders have adopted a 27% non-binding energy efficiency target, which represents a slowing of current progress on energy efficiency and will mean 56m Europeans will continue to live in homes they cannot afford to heat.

Jenny Holland, Head of ACE’s Parliamentary Team, said:
“We have long campaigned for a 40% EU energy efficiency target, which would have been the most cost-effective way to deliver emissions reductions, greater energy security and an end to the misery of 56m Europeans who have to live in homes they can’t afford to keep warm.
“The 30% target proposed by the European Commission already represented a regrettable lack of ambition, amounting only to a continuation of current rates of energy efficiency improvement. But the 27% non-binding target agreed by Europe’s leaders last night amounts to a slowing of current progress on energy efficiency. It means that the opportunity has been squandered to lower energy bills for households and businesses by a whopping €239 billion each year by 2030.
“For the energy efficiency industry, this unambitious target sends out all the wrong signals about Europe as a place in which to invest for the longer term. With the promise of a review of the target in 2020, we will be keeping up the pressure on both the UK Government and the European institutions to put in place a much more ambitious target at the start of the new decade.”

For more information, contact: Jenny Holland, jenny@ukace.org, 07875 629781

Note for editors:
See below for a more detailed ACE commentary on the EU 2030 energy efficiency target:
“Energy efficiency is now universally regarded as the first fuel. It is the key to reducing CO2 emissions at least cost, it creates sustainable employment where and when we need it most, it saves consumers money and helps the 56 million Europeans who cannot afford to heat their homes adequately, it improves the state of public finances, enhances competitiveness and increases GDP. More pertinently than ever, it is the best way to enhance Europe’s energy security, by reducing the need to import fossil fuels from dangerous places. It is the one sanction on Putin that has real bite, and does not hurt Europe’s own economic interests.
“The European Commission recommended a binding 30% energy efficiency target for 2030. Whilst this would have represented a continuation of business as usual energy efficiency improvement, it would have at least brought up the rear, ensuring that the costs of meeting CO2 targets are reduced and the benefits increased. A binding 40% target would have ensured minimised costs and maximised benefits, alongside massively reducing dependence on Russian gas.
“While the 2030 target for reducing CO2 emissions by 40% is to be commended – particularly in the context of securing a global climate deal – and the at least EU-level binding status of the 27% renewables target is to be welcomed, the end-result of a non-binding energy efficiency target of 27% is appalling. Instead of taking its rightful place as first fuel, energy efficiency has been relegated to the position of Europe’s energy Cinderella.
“The UK Government, while an important player in securing the CO2 target, had previously been opposed to an energy efficiency target of any description, even a non-binding one. But agreeing to 27% is cold comfort. It is below the business as usual rate of energy efficiency improvement in the EU, and sends out a discouraging signal to investors. Moreover, the European Council agreed in March that energy efficiency was the top priority for energy security and boosting growth, but now:
• The CO2 target will be achieved at far less net economic benefit than it could be
• Compared to a 40% target, over three million jobs in the construction and manufacturing sectors will be foregone by 2030
• Net gas imports will be 45% higher than under a 40% target
• Energy costs to consumers will be unnecessarily high
“The status of the energy efficiency target will be up for formal review in 2020, where the Commission will consider a 30% target. Had European leaders at least agreed to make 30% binding, it would have guaranteed €2.5 trillion in savings to European consumers to 2030. We will be working hard with others to ensure that the European Parliament pushes the target back up and is made binding as well, levelling the playing field for energy efficiency, thus securing its status as an integral part of Europe’s energy infrastructure.”

ACE response to DECC consultation on a new fuel poverty ‘strategy’ for England

Written by Pedro Guertler on . Posted in Campaigns, Consultation Responses

DECC

ACE has submitted a written response to the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s consultation on a new fuel poverty strategy for England. A strategy is widely held to encompass the following elements, elements which we would have hoped to see after four years of deliberation: identifying the nature and scale of the challenge at hand; setting goals to meet that challenge; laying out policies, programmes and actions to achieve those goals; and earmarking resources to execute the policies, programmes and actions. Instead, the consultation contained a series of important but ultimately small picture questions. In our response, we focused on answering big picture questions not posed in it.

In summary, the draft fuel poverty strategy proposes to set a target to ensure that as many fuel poor homes as is ‘reasonably practicable’ achieve a minimum standard of EPC Band C by 2030. ACE welcomes the Government’s recognition that setting a high standard for energy efficiency is the best long-term solution to tackling fuel poverty. However, we believe that all low income households – not just those that are fuel poor – should be targeted and that the Band C standard should be reached by 2025, not 2030. We also believe that the ‘reasonably practicable’ caveat should be removed or, at the very least, tightly defined so as to ensure that it cannot be used by future Governments as an excuse for failing to implement the Fuel Poverty Strategy. Finally, the interim targets of EPC Band E by 2020 and EPC Band D by 2025 should be removed, as it is far more efficient and effective to improve homes in one go straight to Band C, thus ‘fuel poverty proofing’ them and removing the necessity for expensive repeat visits.

New hub needed to focus on existing buildings

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Articles and Blog, Perspective

andreweibi2013

One of the great triumphs of genuine private/public co-operation has been the work of the non-profit Zero Carbon Hub. Ever since its formation in 2008, it has proved to be the acknowledged entity to which everyone turns – companies and Ministers alike – to consider how best to progress towards ensuring that only the most energy and carbon-efficient new buildings are constructed.

But the vast majority of the buildings we shall be living and working in forty years from now have already been built. Precious few of these are even vaguely zero carbon; most waste bucketfuls of energy every day. By common consent we have one of the oldest, and certainly one of the least energy efficient, building stocks in the entire western world.

It is clear that one of the main challenges over the ensuing decades will continue to be to dramatically improve the energy performance of these buildings. This will need to happen at a rate long aspired to. But – as has been shown in the case of the flagship Green Deal Finance policy – right now falling woefully short of even its cost-effective (let alone technical) potential.