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Solutions for carbon emissions reduction lie in existing homes

The Government is failing to recognise the potential of reducing UK carbon emissions by refurbishing the existing housing stock, according to a report by a cross party group of MPs.

The Department for Communities and Local Government Select Committee published its report, Existing Housing and Climate Change, after receiving representations from more than 70 groups and companies. The Government now has eight weeks to respond to the 30 recommendations made in the report.


Committee chairman Dr Phyllis Starkey told H&V News: “This issue needs to be moved up the Government and public agenda. Most people are not aware of the huge amount of energy which is wasted in existing homes and the significant financial savings they could make through being more efficient.”


Dr Starkey said she viewed sorting out VAT, landlords and smart meters as the three most important issues the report raised. “The Government has to look at the VAT regime to stop the bias against energy efficient improvements and refurbishments.


“It also has to do something to obligate landlords to improve energy efficiency of their properties as they are one of the most inefficient sectors. We also need full-scale roll out of smart meters which provide very detailed information to customers as quickly as possible.


“None of these measures are going to be enough on their own as the existing housing stock is so varied and we need a whole range of measures implemented.”


The report concluded: “The Government’s understandable desire to build improvements into future housing has led it to give insufficient priority to action on the vast bulk of the housing stock represented by the 23 million homes already in England and Wales.


“A much clearer focus on what must be done to bring existing housing up to required efficiency standards is essential.”


Recommendations include the establishment of a Code for Existing Homes to set minimum performance standards by 2016, stamp duty rebates or reductions if home owners act on energy performance certificate recommendations and the quick introduction of feed-in tariffs.


Tim Pollard, head of sustainability at Wolseley, said: “The best way of encouraging the market to improve existing properties is to reduce VAT on energy efficient products. The longer that takes, the further away we will get from improving the situation.”


Peter Thom, president of the Institute of Domestic Heating & Environmental Engineers and managing director of Cambridge-based renewables firm Green Heat, said: “There is no joined up thinking by the Government on domestic heating at all. We have been talking to the DCLG for a long time, but nothing significant is being done on the domestic housing stock.”


He is particularly concerned with the direction of the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) scheme which obliges energy suppliers to invest large amounts of money in promoting reductions in carbon emissions by householders.


He said: “As far as I can see CERT is offering people low energy lightbulbs, loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. Billions of pounds are being allocated to CERT over the next three years and none is being allocated to replacing the 4.5 million inefficient, pilot lit boilers that are out there.”