A question of compliance

EnergyThe Zero Carbon Hub is working to define zero carbon in a way that encourages the production of mainstream, comfortable homes that provide attractive options for purchasers. This article sets out progress so far and highlights a major consultation this year that will inform the debate on carbon compliance – the low-carbon target that will be set for individual homes from 2016.
Step 1
Fabric first – defining an efficient building fabric (to minimise energy demand). This time last year a task group led by the Zero Carbon Hub was entering a crucial stage in its work to develop a standard for the energy efficiency of a zero carbon home.

What emerged was a standard that was widely accepted as challenging but also pragmatic, simple to apply and low risk for UK conditions. This standard, the result of close collaboration across the sector, showed how well the combination of walls, floors, roofs, windows and doors should perform, and provided a reference point for anchoring the rest of the zero carbon definition.

Step two
Carbon compliance – agreeing a feasible level of on-site low-carbon energy technologies for heat and power (to increase renewable energy contribution and reduce the demand for fossil fuels).

Carbon compliance is something that is achieved by a combination of fabric energy efficiency (step 1 above) and low carbon energy technologies – both making a contribution to lower carbon emissions. However, what contribution can we reasonably expect in practice for the energy technologies available? Equally important, how will we know that we have achieved the required carbon compliance target?

Six months ago we would have been guessing at the answers to both of these questions. Now, new modelling and evaluation work by the Hub is building a powerful evidence base for robust decisions and highlighting areas where new research is needed. As an insurance against future changes and circumstances, my colleague David Adams led a cross-industry task group exploring the suitability of modelling tools for assessing carbon compliance. Urgent recommendations from that task group are now in circulation with ministers who are alert to shortcomings in current modelling tools, the risk these pose to achieving national carbon reduction targets, and to many practical issues that should inform modelling assumptions.

To veteran zero carbon definition commentators, the oldest chestnut in the pile is the setting of the overall target for carbon compliance. This figure is now under very close scrutiny by a second carbon compliance task group, convened and facilitated by the Hub, which is exploring the practicalities of delivering carbon compliance to different levels in a range of circumstances. Hub colleagues are gearing up for a busy time ahead to assist this task group as it develops its final recommendations – which will be built on technical, commercial and policy strands of work – and to deliver a consultation programme starting at the end of November.

This work is a critical opportunity to provide the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, with an informed, broadly-derived, consensus view of where the target might be set. This target will become the standard against which tomorrow’s new homes will be designed and built. You can register your views on the development of the Carbon Compliance standard by attending our ‘Have your Say’ events – details on our website www.zerocarbonhub.org.

Step 3
Oh yes, step 3 – that’s allowable solutions. I hope we will be able to tell you more about these next time. While preliminary work is proceeding on allowable solutions within the Hub, we are awaiting a further announcement on the government’s proposed direction on this.

We are aware of strong industry support for inclusion of an approach based on a community energy fund, alongside the pallet of other allowable solutions under consideration.

For more information:
Tel: 0845 8887620
E-mail: info@zerocarbonhub.org
Web: www.zerocarbonhub.org