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Prime minister unveils drastic building energy usage reduction targets

Government pledges to curb energy requirements for functions such as heat by at least 50 per cent by 2030; greater focus on detail for realising these aims backed by Green Building Council

Prime minister Theresa May has set out commitments to reduce energy usage in new buildings by at least half of their current levels over the next twelve years, supported by a focus on more efficient technologies and building design that will help tackle heating and power needs.

The commitments to rethink building design around the notion of lower carbon, ‘clean growth’ were outlined in a speech setting out four key challenges facing the government’s Industrial Strategy. These aims form part of a series government initiatives that include the recently unveiled Clean Air Strategy and are intended to offer a more integrated approach to environmental and industrial planning.”

According to the government, the supply of heat and power to buildings accounts for an estimated 40 per cent of national energy demand. Smart technologies and “modern construction practices” have therefore been put forward by the prime minister as the key means for realising aims to curb household energy costs and curb carbon emissions.

The prime minister said, “By halving the energy use of new buildings – both commercial and residential – we could reduce the energy bills for their occupants by as much as 50 per cent. And we will aim to halve the costs of reaching the same standard in existing buildings too.”

Higher standards within the construction sector and innovative forms of heating technology have been outlined by government as some of the wider benefits from focusing on energy demand in buildings.

A question of details

Industry stakeholders have said that it was now vital for more specific details on how the ambitions will be realised from a technology and funding perspective, as is also the case for other high-profile commitments such as the Clean Growth Strategy that have outlined by government over the last 12 months.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), an industry-led network of organisations focused on ensuring supply chain sustainability in the construction sector, welcomed the commitments to set targets for building energy use and prioritising clean growth in the industrial strategy.

However, UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen called for government to take strong leadership and collaborate with industry to try and tackle energy use in both new and old buildings to meet wider global standards on carbon emissions.

She said, “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. 

“These market signals will be key in driving investment and innovation in the supply chain to meet these challenges and get us on track to meeting the Paris Agreement.”

The commitments to curb energy usage in buildings was also backed by the Heat Pump Association (HPA), which said the pledge would be a major step to reduce carbon emissions and the UK’s reliance on imported fuel.

The association argued that a combined approach on more efficient materials and renewable heating technologies that were alluded to in the prime minister’s speech, reflected that heat pump technology would play a significant role in helping government meet its low carbon ambitions.

HPA president Mike Nankivell noted that the association had been lobbying government for “considerable time” to outline clear plans to reduce energy usage nationally and was encouraged by the prime minister’s pledge.

He said, ““This action clearly demonstrates that the government has listened and determines this is the best way forward to reduce energy consumption, emissions and fuel bills.”

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