Zero carbon by 2016?
The government has resolved to make all new housing zero carbon by 2016 but, in negotiation with the building industry, is being pushed back from this ambition by an industry that is unable to meet the target at an attractive cost (if at all). The introduction of inter-seasonal storage of solar energy, in combination with complementary technologies developed by Newform Energy, makes this target practical and affordable.
The government’s target to make buildings zero carbon is clearly possible – Newform Energy has done it itself. However, Morgan believes that, for many reasons, the goal won’t be achieved by 2016. ‘The main reason is down to the building lobby expressing its concerns. Some, such as cost, are legitimate – but others are less so and are clearly motivated by short-term profit’, he says. ‘There is a degree of conservatism and resistance to change involved, too’, he adds.
‘There is a vast need for retraining the construction sector about the technologies, methodologies and best practice from across the globe. We have unfortunately missed a great opportunity in the last six years to do this. Now is the time to get on with the business of delivery.’
With energy cost increases and technology cost reductions it’s only a matter of time before zero carbon will be an affordable reality. At this point the government just needs to hold its nerve and refrain from any further watering down of the targets.
‘The UK’s current definition of zero carbon excludes a significant portion of the electricity that is used in a building and, as such, it is not fit for purpose’, says Morgan. ‘As far as I know, we are the only country in the world that has done this! It is essential that there is no further watering down of the targets. Now we’re nearly there it’s time to keep focus and gently start tightening again. We are so close to being able to deliver on zero carbon in a way previously thought impossible, at cost point, which works now but can improve further.’
Despite the setbacks, Morgan believes the industry has moved a long way forward in the last six years or so. Keeping the Code for Sustainable Homes, plus stronger enforcement of the policies that have already been in place for some time, would certainly be a step in the right direction. ‘There is a vast need for retraining the construction sector about the technologies, methodologies and best practice from across the globe’, he says. ‘We have unfortunately missed a great opportunity in the last six years to do this. Now is the time to get on with the business of delivery.’
Opening up RHI — the Renewable Heat Incentive, which pays those that generate and use renewable energy to heat their homes — to commercial new builds would also help. ‘This would provide a massive incentive to commercial house builders to go the extra mile’, says Morgan. ‘At present, RHIs are limited to self-build, retrofit and commercial buildings, so there is little incentive for large housing developers to spend any money on taking buildings beyond the regulations. This means that we will have new developments that will have to be retrofitted in the near future, which is ridiculous!
‘We all have a responsibility to hit the targets, but ultimately it has to come from the top down. Without the right framework and policies in place we lack the drivers to make it happen. There needs to be a step change in approach, support and investment in innovation, far more in the way of education and a carrot and stick approach to subsidies.’
To Morgan, the single most important thing that will help ensure a sustainable, zero carbon future is teaching the next generation that all our planet’s resources are precious and need to be protected. ‘The cost of inaction will be so much greater if we don’t get on with the job now’, he says. ‘Society has moved a long way in the right direction, but complacency and apathy could undo all the good work that has been done. The only way to prevent this is by ongoing education.’
‘As far as I can tell the only thing this government is interested in is protecting the interests of the top 1%.
‘The current British government has put in place subsidies to support oil and gas extraction which are making the UK the best place in the world to invest in fossil fuel technologies.’
If Morgan held the reins of power in his hand, his first act would be to ban excessive greed. ‘I am all for supporting success and allowing reward for those who are prepared to take the risk, drive innovation or are driven to succeed,’ he says, ‘but we need to be able to understand at what point enough is enough and when too much becomes greed.
‘Greed drives corruption, stifles innovation and limits change; those with the most to lose have the greatest vested interest. I think this is the greatest challenge to humanity; if more from the top were distributed to the bottom, many of the issues you see today would not be there.’
A more equal and rewarding society may result in no man feeling like an island — or it may make us understand that we’re united on the most beautiful one of all: our home.
All equal and all together, we must use the precious resources available intelligently and efficiently as we float in the universal sea.
For more information on Anthony Morgan and Newform Energy’s projects, visit its website.