Sunday, November 30, 2008

MoT energy check for homes proposed

Homes and factories in the future may have to pass an energy efficiency test in the same way that a car has to pass an annual MoT inspection, a government think tank states.


Householders and factory owners should face penalties if they fail to cut energy use in their properties, according to the Foresight Programme report.

It might mean an owner being denied property insurance or being unable to sell the building if it fails a compulsory energy inspection which would take place every 1-2 years.

To encourage a stronger take-up of green measures - such as better insulation and more efficient boilers - a package of grants and subsidies should be offered by the Government with the possibility of property tax rebates for those who carry out the work.

"To push households and firms into taking action on this issue it may be necessary to signal a strong intent to impose and enforce mandatory regulation at a given time in the future, say three to five years, if sufficient progress has not been made," the report says.

Foresight, part of the Government Office for Science, was commissioned to look at energy systems in the built environment and to examine the challenges over the next 50 years.

Energy use in homes, factories and offices is responsible for more than 50 per cent of CO2 emissions and the report concludes that this will have to change dramatically if the UK is to meet its legally-binding target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

It says climate change and the need to cut emissions, energy security and tackling fuel poverty - where a household needs to spend more than 10 per cent of income to stay warm - will be the main drivers of energy systems in the future.

The report says that the UK is historically 'locked-in' to old centralised power systems and there needs to be a move towards a greater mix of alternative, sustainable energy - such as wind and solar - produced and managed locally.

Almost 70 per cent of the housing stock that will be used in 2050 has already been built and will need to be retrofitted at a cost-effective price with more energy efficient technologies. People needed to live in 'intelligent' homes filled with the latest energy saving technologies such as smart metering and paint-on insulation.

The report says buildings should be designed to stay cool in hot weather, harnessing water as a natural cooling system and through better use of solar energy while green and blue spaces - parks and stretches of water - could be used to reduce urban heat.

But one of the biggest challenges in shaping future energy systems will be bringing about a change in human behaviour and weaning people off high-energy consumption. People have not yet acted quickly enough in cutting energy use and the benefits and rewards available to them needed to be better explained.

Professor Yvonne Rydin of University College London, who helped compile the report, said: "The current economic situation presents a real opportunity for doing things differently, through different forms of building construction and development and new models for how they are built.

"Companies have to think of new ways to get through this situation. Reducing energy saves money and you have to invest now to get a payback later."

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