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25-year Whitehall eco-strategy targets shift from solid fuel heating

UK Government sets out environmental ambitions for the next quarter of a century with sights set on stricter new build efficiency regulations and an end to solid fuel use in heating

The government has outlined its key environmental aims for the next 25 years, which include an end to the use of solid fuels to warm homes and improved connectivity between heat networks and waste facilities. The plans are intended to create more energy efficient, less carbon intensive systems.

Alongside headline grabbing commitments detailed in the plans to curb plastic use in the retail sector, the government has set out several aims that will likely impact the planning and design of future heat systems. This includes broad commitments to introduce stricter environmental standards on new build homes to reduce demand for water and energy, as well as reducing overheating in properties.

Clean air and solid fuel

The government will also be publishing a Clean Air Strategy for consultation over the course of 2018 that will tie in with key aims of its Clean Growth Strategy by setting out key targets on carbon emissions.

The 25-year environment plan said the clean air proposals would, “set out how over the long term we will work towards a shift away from using solid fuels to heat people’s homes, to reduce air quality pollution.”

The government will also use the consultation to look at measures to tackle pollution from the use of coal and wet wood for functions such as heating, as well as introducing sulphur standards on smokeless fuels.

New legislation is intended to be introduced by the government for the use of medium-sized combustion plants (MCPs) for heating larger buildings over concerns that such systems are serving as an unregulated source of air pollution.

The government has claimed that regulation is estimated to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by 43 per cent, while cutting the presence particulate matter by nine per cent.

The strategy added, “Additionally, these controls will contribute to reducing urban nitrogen dioxide concentrations.”

Heat network connectivity

Heating is also considered in the strategy’s attempts to overhaul the environmental impact of waste management. This will build on the UK’s work since 2000 to divert waste that cannot be recycled or reused to energy from waste (EfW) facilities, according to the government.

The strategy document said, “We will continue to encourage operators to maximise the amount of energy recovered from residual waste while minimising the environmental impact of managing it, for example by utilising the heat as well as electricity produced.”

One key commitment outlined in the strategy will be increasing use of heat produced at waste facilities by improving the connectivity of these sites with heat networks.

 Prime minister Theresa May has argued that the commitments within the plan are intended to create the first ever generation that can claim to have left the environment in a better condition than which they inherited.

However, environmental organisations such as Friends of the Earth said that the government needed more urgent plans to tackle issues raised in the environmental plan. The group’s chief executive Craig Bennet argued that a 25-month strategy was equally important to address issues such as climate change and emissions.

 Mr Bennet said, “With the nation facing an accelerating environmental crisis we can’t afford to wait a quarter of a century for urgent action to tackle the issues that already threaten our lives, health and planet.” 

“Thousands of people are dying prematurely every year in the UK because of dirty air pollution, the planet is hurtling towards catastrophic climate change and our precious wildlife sites and open spaces are increasingly under attack.”

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