Four out of five new housing sites will not be able to generate enough power on site to reach the government’s zero-carbon target, according to government advisers, writes Joey Gardiner.

The final report of the Zero Carbon Task Group, headed by Barratt chief executive Mark Clare and published on Tuesday, finds that 80% of sites would never be able to achieve zero carbon if they were required to generate their own energy.

As predicted by Building, the report recommends that developments that cannot should have the option of paying a levy, called the Community Energy Fund, which would be used to buy carbon savings elsewhere.

If the government accepts the proposal, it will be a significant change of policy. The present position is that all energy will have to be generated on site for a home to be zero carbon. Under existing rules, homes can be rated zero carbon that effectively only produce 75% of their energy.

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, who commissioned the taskforce with the backing of ministers, said: “Zero carbon can, and indeed must, work. But the development industry needs absolute clarity about the direction of policy.”

King would not be drawn on exactly how much developers might pay to the fund, and exactly how many developments would be able to use it.

John Slaughter, director of external affairs at the Home Builders Federation, said the 80% finding showed there was still a lot of work to do to get to a workable definition. He said: “We need to go a bit beyond this report and look at some of the big picture issues – such as how this fits with energy policy.”

The report will feed in to a consultation on the definition of zero carbon in the summer.

The industry view

John Tebbit, deputy chief executive, Construction Products Association

This is an excellent report, but there could still be problems getting the community energy systems built and persuading the planners we need to do this. It might be best to spend the Community Energy Fund on educating some planners.

Zoltan Zavordy, buildings working group chair, Energy Saving Trust

The Trust is keen on meeting all the renewables and carbon targets. We can’t afford to say that we’ll just offset new-build targets against improvements to existing homes –
it all needs to happen.

Roger Humber, strategic policy consultant, House Builders Association

Zero carbon is just not deliverable. Instead they ought to be concentrating on the getting everyone to Code for Sustainable Homes level three and four.

Zero Carbon Task Group: the recommendations

  • All buildings must meet strict energy efficiency quotas
  • All buildings must meet a minimum level of energy generation on site – broadly equivalent to level five of the Code for Sustainable Homes
  • Above this level buildings that can’t generate all their power on site must either build renewable energy sources nearby, or pay into a Community Energy Fund

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