New-build developments of ten homes or fewer still look set to be exempted from the zero carbon homes standard.
The policy forms part of the coalition’s Infrastructure Bill, which was debated in the House of Commons this week.
Several other aspects of bill were changed – including new restrictions on operators looking to start shale gas extraction. But according to reports, the House of Commons was left with just minutes to debate changes to the zero carbon homes policy and there was no time to vote on an amendment that aimed to reinstate the previously agreed standard on carbon performance for new homes.
As a result, the bill passed through the House of Commons with the watered-down zero carbon clause unchanged. Under the terms of the bill, small housing developments – which account for around one in five new homes – are exempt from zero carbon building regulations.
This goes against the carbon standards recommended for new homes by the Zero Carbon Hub.
The zero carbon rules are designed to ensure that house builders prioritise green measures such as solar panels and higher levels of insulation.
A joint statement to MPs by the Solar Trade Association, Sustainable Energy Association, Renewable Energy Association, Friends of the Earth and WWF expressed disappointment that the government had rejected the carbon standards recommended for new homes by its own advisers.
Our inefficient built environment is a major contributor to both carbon emissions and to high energy bills, which in turn exacerbate fuel poverty. People and planet can greatly benefit from highly efficient homes which are cheap to run – it makes no sense to water down the Zero Carbon Homes agenda, they said.
According to the organisations, under the current proposals homes built from 2016 will definitely not be zero carbon. At best they will emit only one third less carbon than a home built to 2006 standards.