Michael Kelly, chief scientific advisor to the Department for Communities and Local Government, made the comments at the BSRIA Achieving Zero Carbon briefing, held in London last week.
He said: “The real problem with a lot of zero carbon technologies is scale.
“There are lots of installations confined to 100 houses here and there. We need something where it makes sense to install 1 million units.”
Throwing down the gauntlet to companies and agencies with large housing stocks, such as housing associations and the Ministry of Defence, Mr Kelly said they should form a retrofit consortium to channel large-scale research and development (R&D) spend into technologies that could reduce the carbon impact of existing homes.
“There needs to be an agency that can trial technology and scale them up to the required level,” he said. “At the moment there is no credible agency that can attract grants for these technologies.
“The £3.5 billion R&D money spent on carbon reduction has mainly gone into the nuclear and carbon sequestration industries.”
Nick Cullen, partner at Hoare Lea Research & Development, agreed that scale was fundamental to the success of technologies such as solar photovoltaic and solar thermal.
“The difficulty is that the cost of manufacture is only a percentage of the total cost, so economies of scale in manufacturing have a less significant impact than perhaps would be expected,” he said.