Hitting the 80% carbon reduction by 2050 has huge implications (and costs) for the residential sector. Two strategies are emerging for dealing with these costs, each with its own potentially severe side effects.
Nobody is debating the 80% figure. No one is even quibbling about whether a smaller reduction in emissions by 2050 would be more appropriate. 80% is taken as read and that’s a good thing. But we now have to figure out how to get there.
The residential sector is going to have to shoulder more than its share of the burden – it looks like that debate is settled as well – with people increasingly saying that the whole sector will have to go zero carbon. Estimates on cost vary but the figure of £7Bn – £15Bn per year from now to 2050 is frequently quoted. While statistics can be flimsy, this one looks reasonable.*
But if you don’t like statistics, forget the figures – just take a minute to think about what we’re really trying to do here. We want homes that were built decades or even centuries ago to outperform even the “zero carbon” homes built from 2016.
Because don’t forget, following outcry from the industry, from 2016 Government is only asking for less than half of emissions to be reduced on site before resorting to carbon offsets in the form of allowable solutions. Every noughties shoebox, Victorian semi, Edwardian townhouse, and Georgian pile will need to leave these near-passivehaus new-builds in the dust.
This is a big, big job.
And it’s a big job that comes at a time when Government money has already dried up. Additional public sector borrowing is impossible. The Green New Deal is a gauzy construction that’s likely to blow away with the first faint breeze of post-electoral reality. In the words of George Bailey, the money’s not here.
So what are the potential solutions?
HEMS (formerly HESS, god help us) isn’t out yet but civil servants are already hinting at its contents. These semi-public snippets reveal a struggle in DECC and CLG between advocates of two main mechanisms: PAYS and the Suppliers Obligation. At first glance both have their weaknesses – but on further examination it’s quickly apparent that one of them will be an absolute disaster.
Part 2 to follow shortly.
*Fag packet calc: £20k per home x 26m homes / 40 years = £13Bn/yr to 2050