Upon the announcement that the UK Government had made a law to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the hashtag #netzero was quickly trending on twitter.
In the past year or so we’ve marvelled at the beauty of our Blue Planet (2), as well as been horrified by the damage we’re doing to it. We’ve been stunned by the savagery of nature in Our Planet and how the most savage part of nature is us. We’ve continued to feel the effects of climate change, subtle though they appear in the UK (what happened to the seasons?), utterly destructive in the poles and tropic regions. We’ve also felt the impact of the Attenborough Effect from multiple series and the recent one-off documentary Climate Change: The Facts. The Extinction Rebellion movement has gathered pace and Greta Thunberg has the best part of three-quarters of a million of twitter followers (not bad for a young girl who refused to go to school one day, so depressed by the lack of global action on the climate crisis that she didn’t see the point of going to school).
It’s fair to say a lot has happened, never before have environmental issues been at the forefront of public knowledge and concern. Even as I write this, my girlfriend, a photographer, forwards me an email she’s received from a print company, the first line “The climate crisis is real and immediate” sums it up.
The UK Government are claiming that there’s never been a better time for innovation; meanwhile European industrial emissions actually increased last year…which begs the question, is it all a case of too little too late, or there is genuine optimism and hope?
The Energy Systems Catapult state that ‘Setting the carbon standard for energy could unleash the innovation needed to achieve a “Net Zero” economy” – so true. Net Zero is achievable, the will and desire are there, the knowledge is there, the technology is there, the law is now there…but it will mean little if things stay as they are.
To achieve Net Zero requires a bit of a sea change across all sectors, departments and industries (and that’s just in the UK – European nations are also backing a Net Zero law and hopefully others will follow), for now I’m just going to focus on buildings, which account for over a third of total UK greenhouse gas emissions; pretty significant so it is no surprise that there is a whole raft of regulations in place in an attempt to curb these emissions – DECs, EPCs, MEES, ESOS, SECR...the list of acronyms goes on.
Display Energy Certificates are an excellent starting point, but are currently only aimed at public sector buildings; surely this should be expanded to the private sector? For larger buildings over 1,000m2 they are required on annual basis, but only every 10 years for buildings smaller than this, which has always been ridiculous; just because a building is small does not mean it is insignificant and is perhaps operating incredibly inefficiently (imagine a building of 999m2 being ignored for 10 years with a ‘G’ rated DEC…there’s plenty out there). The Advisory Report is a good guide but generic; by showing building occupiers how their operational rating can improve by implementing certain measures it would be invaluable.
Energy Performance Certificates have been given a new lease of life with the introduction of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards which state that any building let or sold has to have an EPC of at least an ‘E’ rating – still a pretty poor baseline but a good start and one that promises to become tougher as the minimum requirement raises to ‘D’ and beyond…but is time running out? Should the minimum be a tougher target? How about new builds, surely renewables should be a standard, surely the Building Regulations need to be amended to cater for this?
The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme is a strong scheme for large private sector organisations, into its second phase now and with the new Streamlined Energy & Carbon Reporting essentially filling in the gaps between ESOS phases it should mean keeping a closer eye on larger emitters is a bit easier. Importantly it helps these organisations achieve their own self-imposed targets, often far tougher to achieve than anything set up externally. The future of ESOS could (should?) look at enforcing some sort of implementations from energy audits, not just a tick box exercise, but actual change. Perhaps a reward scheme for those that do, or penalties for those that do not.
The Net Zero bill is a step in the right direction, there’s a lot to do, but a lot to achieve. It is such a golden opportunity for everyone to say, ‘I was there when the planet was saved’.
kW Energy Consultants work with businesses to reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions within their buildings and deliver building energy compliance – Display Energy Certificates, Energy Performance Certificates, Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme, bespoke energy audits & reports. To find out more visit www.kwenergyconsultants.com