Image: Giorgio Trovato (Unsplash).

The solar sector has welcomed the UK government’s 31% home carbon emissions reduction target as part of the long-awaited Future Homes Standard update.

According to Solar Energy UK, this target could lead to a five-fold increase in new homes built with solar technologies as home builders opt for the low-carbon technology to help meet reduction targets.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has detailed plans to radically improve the energy performance of new homes. It is targeting a 75-80% reduction in carbon emissions compared to current levels by 2025, and as such is aiming for an interim 31% reduction by June 2022.

Housing minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP said that improving the energy performance of buildings will be vital to reaching net zero by 2050.

“The radical new standards announced today will not only improve energy efficiency of existing homes and other buildings, but will also ensure our new homes are fit for the future, by reducing emissions from new homes by at least 75%.”

The publication of the Future Homes Standard follows a consultation launched in October 2019, which looked at delivering a 20% reduction in carbon emissions through “very high” fabric standards, or – as chosen – targeting a higher reduction by also including carbon-saving technologies.

Within Part L of the Future Homes Standard, it explores a number of the technologies that could help reduce domestic carbon emissions, with support in the consultation seen for solar panels, green gas such as hydrogen and biomethane, as well as mechanical ventilation with heat recovery.

How the reductions are achieved will largely remain up to the housebuilder, with the Ministry taking a technology-neutral approach. However, it noted that it expects many to opt for solar PV as opposed to low carbon heating solutions such as heat pumps.

As well as these new targets helping to drive down emissions in a particularly challenging sector – with 15% of the UK’s carbon emissions currently coming from residential housing – they will help tackle fuel poverty, reducing bills through efficiency. The document notes that householders pay around £379 a year on energy under Buildings Regulations. But following the new standards, a house with a gas boiler and solar panels will pay closer to £168.

The greater ambition in the Future Homes Standard has been particularly welcomed after research by Solar Energy UK – then the Solar Trade Association – found in 2019 that over half of local authorities set higher building standards than national requirements.

Solar Energy UK chief executive Chris Hewett said they were delighted that the government had listened to their call for higher ambitions.

“Every new home built will require an increase in energy efficiency that could be met by solar. This is a real victory for our industry and consumers, acting as an important steppingstone on the way towards a more ambitious Future Home Standard come 2025.

“The home of the future will feature solar panels and a battery. It may well be heated with electricity, have solar heated water and an electric vehicle parked outside. It will be well insulated, well built and cost less to run than today. All the necessary technology exists at reasonable cost. Housebuilders, let’s get started”