I recently read that the zero carbon homes target is set to be watered down… So how do we encourage home owners to take energy efficiency more seriously in the UK? More than a fifth of homes are rated in bands F or G (the least energy efficient rankings of an EPC) so is it simply a case of offering financial incentives to ‘go green’ or do we require more of a fundamental shift in thinking?
Carbon dioxide emissions from the aging housing stock contribute more than 27% of the UK’s carbon footprint. I would argue that while many people will recycle a newspaper, the psyche does not easily stretch to managing finite resources and employing energy saving devices in the home. Take, for example, motion-sensored lighting, timed shutdown on electronic devices, water meters; how many people have any of these devices at home? Yet in many offices they are now accepted as commonplace.
We use 50% more water in England and Wales than we did 25 years ago, with the average family using 500 litres per day. I have seen Australians react with horror that we might leave a tap running as we brush our teeth, but such a simple example highlights the shift in mentality required to promote energy efficiency in the UK. Frankly this is an area where the government has had little widespread success, adopting neither a transparent carrot nor stick approach. Incentives to implement ecologically aware systems are thin and lack transparency. Likewise for private sector homes there is little legislation to ensure prudent energy standards are met.
I await the impact of the government’s latest offering via the Green Deal. Its application could benefit up to 14 million homes, with the least efficient homes able to save as much as 66% on their energy bills. In a recent speech on the environment Deputy PM, Nick Clegg stated “This government is going to do things differently. We won’t try and dazzle you with green gimmicks. We want to impress you by quietly getting on with the job.” … well carry on Mr Clegg.
Legislation for the scheme is timetabled for later this year, with the Deal expected to take effect during 2012.