House of Lords debate last night overwhelmingly urges Government to redefine zero carbon for housing

Sustainability professionals last night unanimously supported the need for the current definition of zero carbon to include off-site renewables.

Over 100 practitioners backed the motion under discussion in the House of Lords debate, organised by sustainability group Sponge.

Summing up at the end of the debate the chair Jon Lovell, head of sustainability at Drivers Jonas, said: “There is no way on earth we are going to realise this (zero carbon) without offsite.”

Speaking for the motion, which was that off-site renewables had an “essential role” in delivering the government’s zero carbon targets, Brian Mark, director at Fulcrum Consulting, said: “"The rules as they stand are effectively a stealth tax supporting microgeneration which is not economically efficient at generating electricity. There has to be a mix between small scale, community scale and large scale.”

Arup director Chris Twinn, also speaking in favour of the motion, said he thought the industry would be able to reach level 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes without using off-site renewables but to hit level 6 required off-site. “We have to be pragmatic,” he said.

Speaking after the event Lovell added: "“If we are to have any chance of genuinely delivering low and zero-carbon buildings over the next decade, Government and the building industry need to work together closely, but that collaboration must be founded on a sensible and consistent approach by Government which does not disenfranchise those who will be central to the realisation of the zero-carbon vision.

“In recent months Government has been backwards and forwards with its definition of zero-carbon building, which serves only to evoke frustration and confusion within the industry. Even now, despite Treasury’s recent ruling on what will qualify for stamp duty exemption within the residential sector and the subsequent changes that have been made to the Code for Sustainable Homes, there are signs that we haven’t yet reached a final conclusion on this issue. That’s why the debate tonight has been so important. It should send a strong signal to Government that off-site renewables, coupled with on-site generation, are simply essential to the realisation of zero-carbon buildings”.