The Budget announcement that emissions from appliances in the home are no longer part of zero carbon will be welcomed by the house-building industry. They have been grappling with the thorny problem of how to power everything in a home from renewable sources ever since the Labour government’s last minute decision to define zero carbon as including appliances as well as heating and lighting.

Early calculations showed this was going to add £40,000 to the cost of a home and the government has been trying to pull back from this commitment ever since. The last government changed the rules so green energy was allowed from much cheaper offsite sources although a workable way of doing this has yet to be defined. According to Cyril Sweett meeting the offsite bit of energy needed to power appliances was still going to add up to about £3,000 per home, assuming carbon costs £75 per tonne.

The government has signalled it will accept the Zero Carbon Hubs recommendations on carbon compliance. This is the element of a home’s emissions that must be met by onsite low carbon and renewable technologies. The balance of energy needed to heat and light the home plus power appliances was going to come from so called allowable solutions, the offsite bit of the package.

The recommended carbon compliance levels demands emissions are cut significantly from homes compared to 2010 Part L which equates to about 20kg/co2/m2/yr. In the case of low rise apartments the carbon compliance level will be 14kg/co2/m2/yr apartments and 10 kg/co2/m2/yr for detached houses. Allowable solutions will still be needed to get those levels down to zero so the ZCH will still need to come up with an allowable solutions mechanism to tackle this.

The UK Green Council is furious about today’s announcement with some justification. Meeting carbon compliance levels will be expensive as it calls for onsite renwables which is an expensive way of cutting carbon. That allowable solutions payment would go towards much more cost effective measures such as funding wind turbines in the North Sea or insulating leaky old houses down the road. Housebuilders will save £2,500 - £3,000 per home, about a quarter of the total cost of meeting carbon compliance but the opportunity to save 50% of a home’s total emissions for that money is now gone.

The only consolation is the government has said it buys into the ZCH call that this is based on real life performance rather than from modelling which could mean tougher standards in practice.