Image: Nottingham City Council

Solar could play a pivotal role in the government’s proposed Future Homes Standard, with a more ambitious option for carbon emission reductions in new build housing preferred.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published the consultation on changes to Part L of the Future Homes Standard on Tuesday (1 October 2019). Two options for increasing energy efficiency standards in new-build homes were outlined, set to come into effect from 2025.

Option one would deliver a 20% reduction in carbon emissions through “very high” fabric standards. Option two would deliver a 31% reduction based on both better fabric standards and carbon-saving technology such as solar PV, the consultation says.

In the consultation, the ministry said option two is its preferred option as “it would deliver more carbon savings and result in lower bills for the householder”.

The document suggests that under option two, an additional £4,847 would be added to the build-cost of a new home, with savings on energy bills of £257 a year. This drops for flats to £2,256 per flat, with carbon savings also dropping to 22%.

This is in comparison to an additional £2,557 for the build-cost of a new home savings of £59 a year on energy bills under option one.

The STA, however, has warned the figures “may be overestimated” and it will be examining the impact assessment closely, suggesting solar could deliver more benefits to homeowners than the consultation expects due to housebuilders now being familiar with the technology and falling installation costs.

Ian Rippin, CEO of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, described the consultation as a “significant step” towards net zero.

“With the innovative low carbon technology that is available to us now – that includes solar PV and heat pumps – it is vital that these are integrated in the future planning of new build developments.”

The Future Homes Standard was introduced in March by then-chancellor Philip Hammond in his Spring Statement, but it bears similarities to the Labour Party’s Zero Carbon Homes standard, announced in 2006, which would have seen all new-build homes built to an effective zero emissions standard from 2016.

The Zero Carbon Homes standard was scrapped in 2015, however, by the newly-elected Conservative government.

Viridian Solar’s CEO Stuart Elmes said that energy efficiency of new homes has remained “largely unchanged” since 2010 due to the scrapping of the Zero Carbon Homes standard and “meagre improvement” of 2013 building regulations.

“DCLG should stick to its guns on the more ambitious option of a 31% reduction in carbon emissions or push it further,” Elmes said.

The ministry is also suggesting the performance metrics for buildings to be measured against should be a primary energy target, a CO2 emission target, a householder affordability rating and minimum standards for fabric and fixed building services.

Chris Hewett, chief executive of the STA, said the ministry's preference for option two is “encouraging” and should be the “obvious choice” in the context of net zero. Hewett also pointed to progress made in Scotland, saying it is “high time England caught up”.

“Anecdotal evidence from our Scotland members suggests four in five new build properties are developed with solar fitted. We hope to see similar levels in the rest of the country very soon,” he added.

Elmes also cited Scotland’s progress, saying Scottish housebuilders have taken environmental targets “in their stride”.

“The construction industry needs to step up to the challenge of urgent action posed by the Climate Emergency. Business as usual is no longer an acceptable response,” Elmes continued.

The ministry is accepting responses to the consultation through an online survey until 10 January 2020.