The White Paper envisages a number of routes by which carbon reductions can be made. These include promoting the greater use of alternative and renewable forms of energy, emissions trading, research into new cleaner fuels and a significant push for greater energy efficiency.
As much of the thinking is comparatively long-term it is likely that improvements in energy efficiency represent the most practical way for the Government to make substantive progress in the shorter-term. The Governments proposals in this area will affect the interests of HBF members as well as other groups.
The Energy White Paper has been driven by two significant policy concerns the Governments recognition that climate change is a real threat and the UKs imminent transition to being a large importer of oil and gas as North Sea production declines. In practice both these concerns pull in the direction of adopting new, cleaner forms of energy and improving energy efficiency.
A whole chapter of the White Paper is devoted to energy efficiency and the Governments plans to improve this. Overall the Government states that it is looking to achieve roughly a doubling of the rate of energy efficiency achieved over the last 30 years in the period up to 2020. Key proposals include:
Revising the building regulations. The Government states it will start work immediately on the next major revision of the regulations with the aim of bringing these into effect in 2005. While much attention will be focused on the existing stock, the Government notes that the latest UK standards for new homes still result in lower energy efficiency than is achieved in other countries such as Denmark. Specific reference is made to the adoption of the most efficient types of condensing boilers for heating and to new regulations encouraging developers to use low carbon technology such as solar water heating and photovoltaics.
Establishment of a new working group to consider how best to improve the sustainability of all aspects of construction and design. The working group would comprise representatives of housebuilders, the Housing Corporation, the construction industry and others.
A Better Buildings Summit to be convened and chaired by Ministers from ODPM, Defra and DTI and involve representatives of all key players.
The adoption and use of more energy efficient products and appliances. The Government proposes to work via a range of measures including voluntary agreements with industry and further EU legislation to improve product standards and energy labelling.
Encourage energy suppliers to do more to provide energy services promoting efficiency.
Tackling energy efficiency via social housing programmes.
Proposing a requirement in the Housing Bill that the sellers pack contains information on the homes energy performance.
To bring all this together the White Paper also states that within a year the Government will publish an implementation plan providing further detail on how to deliver its energy efficiency strategy.