Low carbon housing in the West Midlands

Report coverAn important report in the West Midlands’ aim to achieve its carbon reduction targets was launched on 23rd March 2009.

Low Carbon Housing – developing a baseline for refurbishment in the West Midlands (pdf, 1.59mb) was jointly commissioned by the West Midlands Regional Assembly and Advantage West Midlands.

Amongst the report’s findings was the fact that the West Midlands will need to spend an additional £189.1 million per year on installing energy efficiency measures into homes, which equates to an additional 68,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, if it is to meet its CO2 emissions target.

Currently the household sector represents a third of energy consumption in the West Midlands and the challenge is set to grow with a rise in household numbers due to an increasing population and falling household size.

Key to the reduction challenge is the simple fact that, even with the planned levels of house building, 80 per cent of the homes that will be standing in 2050 have already been built. With the planned new homes needing to be built to far more exacting energy efficiency standards it is clear that our existing homes have a significant role to play in ensuring these climate change targets are met.

The report provides an evidence base to support work to address energy efficiency at household level. It helps understand the impact that individuals can make but throws up a number of important questions for policy makers.

Clearly some of the larger efficiency measures such as external wall insulation are expensive and the efficiency saving takes a number of years to be felt. This makes them a difficult choice for home owners.

The simple, less expensive, measures are becoming the norm such as low energy light bulbs but how do we drive the more expensive but higher impact measures?

Low ccarbon housing, Station Crescent, Craven ArmsThere is a great deal of work ongoing within the social housing sector and some of this should be used as demonstration projects. Such retrofitting of existing properties also builds the skills in the sector to carry out the work.

There is a real need for leadership in driving the public to realise the benefits and also the necessity of this work.

The report recommends the setting of  a clear regional target for household CO2 emissions reduction. It recommends that this target should be set before 2011 in preparation for the next round of Local Area Agreement targets and representative targets for each local authority area identified.

Targets should reflect the carbon budgets that will be set by government in 2009 but also support existing UK and national targets for household CO2 reduction, energy consumption and energy efficiency improvement.

At the Observatory we recognise the difficulties local authorities are having in demonstrating the progress they are making in reducing emissions in their areas. National Indicator 186 requires this but no clear means of demonstrating progress has been found.

The Observatory is working with the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York and the SCPnet (Sustainable Consumption and Production Network) to try and identify tools that allow authorities to demonstrate the impact of their projects.

Retrofitting of the existing housing stock is a vital component of the region’s approach to reducing its emissions and it is crucial that the findings of this report are built and acted upon to help achieve the 2020 and 2050 emissions targets.

Download the report

Low Carbon Housing – developing a baseline for refurbishment in the West Midlands (pdf, 1.59mb)

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