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2 February 2012
The Rural Citizen is under attack from the Coalition Government’s energy policy.
This is particularly apparent in three key areas: building regulations; the rural homes shortage; and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs).
Calor Gas Ltd. wish to highlight that current government energy policy has been inherited from the previous Labour administration and is at risk to be further continued. Environmental legislation such as proposed Building Regulations fail rural areas by adding further costs to new buildings in rural areas over and above what is expected in towns and cities. This is exacerbating an already significant problem in the countryside where there is already a shortage of affordable housing for rural homeowners and first time buyers.
Yesterday, Andrew Stunell MP OBE, Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, launched a Building Regulations consultation proposing a change that will make it more expensive to build new homes, using well-established boiler technology, in rural areas than in urban areas.
Boilers for heating and hot water are installed in over 90% of all UK homes. There are more than 100,000 certified heating experts based in the UK proficient in installing and maintaining these appliances.
The current Building Regulations require that all new properties are built to a standard that minimises carbon emissions. Most houses in the countryside are off the mains gas network. As all off-grid fuels emit more carbon than natural gas, the Building Regulations incorporate a “Fuel Factor” that allows a slightly higher level of emission in all newly built rural properties.
The new Building Regulations propose the removal of this fuel factor from 2013 as part of the drive towards lower UK emissions. So, when constructing in areas of the UK where mains gas is not available, the rural builder will be forced to add more insulation and/or additional renewable technology (such as solar heat). According to NIFES (a specialist building regulations firm), this will add between £3900 and £7850 to the cost of new homes in rural areas (depending on the size of the building) compared to the same sized houses in a mains gas area.
Rural Homes Shortage
The Federation of Master Builders reports that building a small number of homes is inevitably more expensive, per house, than building the housing estates generally constructed by building companies in mains-gas areas. The removal of the Fuel Factor from the Building Regulations is another barrier to the construction of rural homes at a time when, according to the Countryside Alliance, rural homes are already less affordable than in urban areas. The rate of construction of new, affordable, rural homes was only 29% of the identified need in 2010/11.
Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)
EPCs are the mandatory first step in the Green Deal process – one of the instruments of Government environmental policy. Unlike equivalent EPCs assessment across Europe, the UK EPC assessment process measures cost not energy.
As all rural fuels tend to be more expensive per unit than mains gas, a home situated in a rural area will receive a worse score on an EPC assessment than the same sized home sited in a mains-gas area.
Incentives intended to assist the uptake of more energy-efficient or renewable technology, such as RHI, FIT and the Green Deal itself, are being limited to homes that meet minimum EPC levels. Under the current and proposed EPC design, it will be much harder – if not economically impossible – for rural owners to benefit from the supposedly ‘universal’ schemes.