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Regulatory policy needed to reduce carbon emissions in new builds

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A renewable energy body is calling on the Government to set out a “clear and ambitious regulatory roadmap” for sustainability standards in new build, arguing that the scrapping of the Zero Carbon Homes policy last year left a “policy vacuum”.

In its response to the Cutting Red Tape review of house building consultation, the Solar Trade Association (STA) said that although the Government’s focus is on maximising build rates, the lower standards that inevitably come with the speed of building lock in higher carbon emissions, as well as higher energy bills for the eventual occupants, for decades to come.

However, the organisation argues that higher standards would provide a “level playing field” on which different emissions reduction options can compete and maintains that there is no evidence that they prevent the construction industry from building. It goes on to say that the costs of solar energy, for example, have fallen dramatically in recent years, so new build is an ideal way of taking the technology forward.

In fact, the Committee on Climate Change recommended that the Government should implement the zero carbon homes standard without further weakening just one week before the Zero Carbon Homes policy was scrapped.

The STA expressed astonishment at the scrapping of the policy, with a spokesman calling it an “incomprehensible” act, given that the UK was nine years into a 10-year plan and leaves a “policy vacuum”.

He added that solar energy is perfectly suited to new build and ought to become a standard feature on new housing, particularly since the 70 per cent cost reductions since 2010 means that any additional build costs can be recouped within years through lower energy bills. He also said that local authorities have a responsibility to help achieve the 80 per cent carbon emission reduction required by the Climate Change Act.