Communities and Local Government (CLG) has published the zero carbon homes definition.

According to CLG, a zero carbon home is one whose net carbon dioxide emissions, taking account of emissions associated with all energy use in the home, is equal to zero or negative across the year. The definition of ‘energy use’ will cover both energy uses currently regulated by the Building Regulations and other energy used in the home.

However, a special task group is to be established in order to determine what the minimum levels of homes' basic energy efficiency should be. Following this group's report, CLG will announce decisions on a clear standard by the end of the year.

The news comes in a week which saw Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) unveil its Low Carbon Transition Plan aimed at putting the UK on a low carbon footing.

The definition has also managed to sneak in just before the parliamentary recess. CLG said that the move was a mixture of planning and a happy accident.

A spokesman for the department said: “We’ve been working on the definition since the consultation closed in April. There’s been a push to get the definition out before recess, rather than having it on the stocks until later on in the year.”

John Healey, housing minister, released a statement on the definition and reconfirmed the government’s policy that all new homes will be zero carbon from 2016.

Healey also said that net emissions of the home will have to meet a minimum "carbon compliance" standard - a regulatory level of carbon reduction to be achieved on-site compared to today's regulations.This will be 70% of regulated energy use.

He also said there would be support for small-scale renewable heat and electricity generation through the Renewable Heat Incentive and Clean Energy Cash Back available for on-site renewables.

Any carbon not mitigated on site would be dealt with through a range of good quality "allowable solutions". The allowable solutions will cover carbon emitted from the home for 30 years after build.

Those that received broad support in the consultation were:

  • Further carbon reductions on site beyond the regulatory standard
  • Energy efficient appliances meeting a high standard which are installed as fittings within the home
  • Advanced forms of building control system which reduce the level of energy use in the home
  • Exports of low carbon or renewable heat from the development to other developments
  • Investments in low and zero carbon community heat infrastructure

Other allowable solutions are also being considered.

Neil Jefferson, chief executive of the Zero Carbon Hub, said: “We welcome today’s announcement from Government on the definition for zero carbon homes and fully support the proposals for very high levels of energy efficiency, but at a standard which is appropriate for UK conditions.

“The 70% carbon compliance level announced today appears to provide a good balance and reflects the level voted for by the building industry at our recent definition workshops. To move forward and give industry the level of certainty they need to invest, we need to complete this work and get the right definition in place as soon as possible. We are looking forward to playing a central role in the task group over the next few months to deliver more detail on minimum energy efficiency standards.”