We live in an age of fragile world markets, politically-motivated events, concerns around world food production and potentially climate change driven catastrophes – all of which impact on the availability and cost of energy production.
This clearly highlights the need for the UK to become more self-reliant at a national level, and for the government to create mechanisms for us to move towards a more sustainable and secure society in terms of energy production and usage.
Under David Cameron’s government, the longstanding trajectory of building regulations changed with the withdrawal of a ratchet mechanism for zero carbon homes called The Code for Sustainable Homes; which had been in place for over nine years and which the construction industry and its supply chain had embraced. Unfortunately, this target has been pushed onto the back-burner.
With our current fragile government focused entirely on negotiating Brexit, there isn’t really room for additional and ambitious sustainability targets and so government-driven building regulations are likely to stay as they are. So perhaps then we need to look to a more local level and consider the ability of town, city and county councils’ to influence sustainable through planning and building regulations.
However, there is some hope here; depending on where you live. The amount of solar we are seeing specified to go onto new homes is gradually increasing, with a growing number of local councils taking the lead in terms of more sustainable building standards in their localities. Scotland, for example, has higher and more solar-friendly building standards than the rest of the country, installing solar panels on around 60 percent of new homes.
Planning authorities in London are following suit, although there are constraints in terms of the type of building since high rise flats may not have the roof space for solar panels. We’re also seeing more eco-driven building regulations in other pockets of the country, including parts of Devon, the Southeast, Lancashire and Yorkshire, where planning authorities have clear objectives to drive local energy from renewables.
But again, this is a complex and time-consuming process; at the moment, it’s down to individual councils to decide how and when they’re going to implement sustainability targets – if at all. So if the drive to become carbon-free and more independent in our energy production isn’t going to come directly from global markets, national governments or local councils, where will it come from?
The answer is simple; it’s us. As consumers, we now have the power not only to demand more sustainable homes from our local authorities, but to take a greater level of responsibility for the production of our own energy.
Our houses are generally more sustainable now than they’ve ever been; most of us have double or triple glazing, and we have fairly high levels of insulation in our walls, floors and ceilings. New build homes now come with A-Rated appliances which generally use much less electricity. Therefore, the energy needs of the average house are lower now than they ever were.
It’s clear we need a greater push for renewable’s to be secure from energy supply and cost shocks. How we get there remains to be seen, but solar is certainly helping move closer to this security every day.