David Blackman Policy, Policy & regulation, Regulation, News, Theresa May, Tom Greatrex

Theresa May has pledged that the energy usage of new buildings will be halved by 2030.

The pledge was outlined in a wide-ranging speech on science and the industrial strategy, delivered by the prime minister yesterday (21 May) at the pioneering Jodrell Bank radio telescope observatory in Cheshire.

She said improving energy efficiency was the first “mission” to meeting the clean growth, “grand challenge”, one of the four outlined in the industrial strategy, which was published last year.

May said that the goal of the mission was to use “new technologies and modern construction practices” to “at least” halve the energy usage of new buildings by 2030.

She said that the government also aimed to halve the costs of reaching the same standard in existing buildings.

“By making our buildings more energy efficient and embracing smart technologies, we can slash household energy bills, reduce demand for energy, and meet our targets for carbon reduction.

“By halving the energy use of new buildings – both commercial and residential – we could reduce the energy bills for their occupants by as much as 50 per cent.”

She said that meeting this challenge would drive innovation and higher standards in the construction sector.

May also used her speech to announce that the government wished to secure associate status in EU Horizon 2020 and Euratom R&D nuclear research programmes.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Buildings Council welcomed the prime minister’s announcement on energy efficiency but cautioned that it had to be backed up by concrete measures.

She said:“Addressing the energy used in new and existing buildings will be central to delivering clean growth and can only be achieved with strong leadership from government working in close partnership with the industry.

“Now this mission has been set, it will be vital to underpin it with clear and consistent policies. Government should set a trajectory for building regulations to achieve net zero carbon from 2030, as well as introducing long-term incentives for retrofitting homes and commercial buildings.

“These market signals will be key in driving investment and innovation in the supply chain to meet these challenges and get us on track to meeting the Paris Agreement.”

Commenting on May’s Euratom announcement, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “It is welcome that the UK government have acknowledged the benefits of the UK’s participation in these Euratom programmes, and is seeking an association agreement that will enable that to continue. That is a benefit to the UK, to the rest of the European Union and to the global scientific community, and I hope the European Commission respond positively.

“Of course, this is just one part of the current Euratom framework, and progress in replicating other vital areas is still needed before the UK leaves in March 2019.”

May’s speech follows a warning by Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations environment programme, that the UK should not dilute its environmental protection regime post-Brexit.

In an interview with the Observer newspaper, published yesterday, Solheim said: “Any dilution and the UK’s reputation would be damaged. People in government need to make sure that does not happen. We need to make sure they have those standards or improve them, or meet the ones under the European Union.”

He was speaking amidst mounting concerns by environmental groups that the government’s proposed new environment watchdog lacks legal teeth to enforce existing environmental standards set by the EU, which are due to be incorporated into UK law after Brexit.

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