Action stalled on higher energy standards for new homes

Barry White

A recent article by Ben Webster in openDemocracy reveals that the majority of new homes rely on carbon-intensive gas boilers after developers lobbied the government to delay laws on cutting emissions from buildings. According to the Office for National Statistics, two-thirds of new homes built in England in the year to the end of March 2022 use gas for central heating. Currently homes account for about 21% of UK carbon emissions.

Last year the Government was persuaded to delay a ban on developers connecting new homes to the gas grid when they rejected a recommendation by the House of Commons’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee that the policy be brought forward to 2023. This means that households will face large bills to retrofit properties.

The policy known as the ‘Future Homes Standard’ should have been implemented in 2023 but it will now operate from 2025. This new standard will require CO2 emissions produced by new homes to be 75-80% lower than those built to current standards. Homes will need to be ‘zero carbon ready’, with no retrofit work required to benefit from the decarbonisation of the electricity grid and the electrification of heating. Additionally, new buildings such as offices and shops will have to cut emissions by 27%.

The Home Builders Federation, which represents major housebuilders, has sought to justify the slow transition from gas boilers to heat pumps for new homes by arguing that there are problems with the supply chain and a lack of electricity capacity.

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