No new homes should be connected to the gas grid from 2025 at the latest, the government’s climate change watchdog has recommended as part of a wide-ranging package of measures to cut emissions from the UK’s housing stock.
A new report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), published on Thursday (21 February), urges the government to dramatically improve energy efficiency standards for both new and existing housing in order to help meet the UK’s statutory targets to cut emissions to 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.
It warns that this target will not be met unless there is a near elimination of emissions from the UK’s 29 million buildings and must fall by at least 24 per cent by 2030 from 1990 levels.
But the CCC says that rather than falling, annual temperature-adjusted emissions from buildings rose by around 1 per cent in 2017 compared to the previous year.
Just one per cent of new homes built in 2018 were energy performance certificate (EPC) band A, while 12 per and seven per cent respectively were rated C and D or below.
And only around one million homes have low-carbon heat, the majority of which is supplied by wood stoves or biomass boilers rather than heat pumps, according to the study.
As well as no gas connections for new dwellings by the middle of this decade, the CCC recommends that by 2030 around 1.5 million homes should be connected to new or expanded low-carbon heat networks, mainly in cities.
It also recommends starting soon on the deployment at scale of “hybrid” heat pumps, which can provide heating except when the weather is coldest, in buildings connected to the gas grid with a view to installing ten million by 2035.
And the report backs the deployment of a hydrogen option for domestic heating and a target that up to 6 per cent of buildings’ gas demand by 2030 should be supplied by biomethane.
By 2025, the energy efficiency of new homes should be consistent with a space heat demand of 15-20 kWh/m2 per year, the CCC recommends. Combined with heat pumps, ultra-energy efficient fabric could save the average householder around £85 per year on their bill as well as helping to reduce annual and peak electricity demand.
“Getting the design right from the outset is far cheaper than retrofitting late.
“Current policies and standards are failing to drive either the scale or the pace of change needed. Home insulation installations have stalled; key policies, like the “zero carbon homes” scheme, have been weakened or withdrawn,” the CCC suggested.
And both new and retrofitted dwellings should incorporate better ventilation and shading to reduce the risk of overheating, which the report says is currently a problem in 4.5 million homes even during cool summers.
The CCC recommends an accelerated uptake of energy efficiency measures, such as loft and wall insulation.
It also criticises the gap between the stated design standards of new and retrofitted homes and what is actually built, which it claims is “deceiving” new householders who are saddled with higher than anticipated heating costs.
Closing this “performance gap” could save households in new homes between £70 and £260 in energy bills each year, the report estimates.
Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, said: “We must finally grasp the challenge of improving our poor levels of home energy efficiency. As the climate continues to change, our homes are becoming increasingly uncomfortable and unsafe.
“This will continue unless we take steps now to adapt them for higher temperatures, flooding and water scarcity. Our report shows that this work has barely begun.”