2019 saw a surge in momentum on climate change; a year of ‘firsts’ that saw the UK set its 2050 net zero emissions target into law. But will 2020 keep up the pace of change and see promises put into action? And what does it mean for energy efficiency in the built environment?
Certainly, the pressure is on 2020 for the government to put some meat on the bones of its net zero commitment, and the Committee on Climate Change has restated the need for urgent action. In a letter to the Prime Minister in late December, the committee said that ‘UK efforts to address the climate crisis have so far fallen short’ and outlined the key policy priorities for cutting the UK’s emissions.
It’s no surprise that buildings were top of the CCC’s ‘to do’ list – the built environment accounts for 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions, according to the UKGBC. The committee called on the government to come up with ‘an ambitious and properly funded strategy for entirely removing fossil fuels from the UK’s building stock.’
Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting
We don’t yet know the government’s concrete plans for hitting the net-zero target. But existing policy changes are already driving energy efficiency in buildings. The Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting regulations came into force last year and affect an estimated 11,900 large companies in the UK. These companies will soon be reporting on their emissions and energy use for financial years that started on or after April 1st 2019, and submitting this to Companies House.
Although there’s no imperative to cut energy use, the report must include ‘a narrative of energy efficiency action taken in the financial year’. This will be publicly available information, so there is a reputational risk for companies that are doing nothing.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards
The government is also currently consulting on the trajectory for tightening the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for privately rented non-domestic buildings. Current proposals are to set minimum energy efficiency standards at EPC band B by 2030. It’s likely too that incremental milestones will be put in place before this date to encourage early action. The government has also promised a consultation in 2020 on introducing mandatory in-use energy performance ratings for business buildings.
So change, if it isn’t already here, is coming. Businesses should be preparing by reviewing their building stock and identifying opportunities for energy efficiency. Aside from mitigating compliance and reputational risk, the financial savings can be significant.
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