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Parity thoughts on Committee on Climate Change’s 2020 Progress Report

Today, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published their latest progress report to Parliament. Parity Projects are delighted to see the focus on retrofit and the recognition that “the major challenge of widespread building renovation and retrofit to increase building heat efficiency has been largely unaddressed”.  

The report outlines four medium-term milestones for the Government’s Buildings policy in order for the UK to be on track to net zero emissions by 2050, a couple of which we applaud, but unsurprisingly we have more to add on others.

The Hydrogen Hope

Strategic decisions on the future of the natural gas grid and the future balance between hydrogen and electrification for heating, taking into account the views of the public. Transition to sustainable heat networks market. Targeted deployment of heat pumps must scale up to be able to replace the majority of current gas boiler demand by the early 2030s (around ~1.5m installations a year). 

The uncertainty around hydrogen is cause for ongoing concern. The longer it continues as an unclear but potentially easy answer for property-owners, the longer the rollout of other options will be delayed. Equally, if people take up incentives for renewable heat at the scale required, the business model for hydrogen will be significantly dented. The Government needs to spell out the potential, particularly in terms of geography or property type, so that the rest of the market can get on with decarbonising heat with known and available technologies. 

Standards Trajectory

Implement a clear trajectory of standards covering owner-occupied, social- and private-rented homes and non-residential buildings, announced well in advance. Alongside trajectories for energy efficiency, all new heating systems to be low-carbon from 2030 in off-gas properties and 2035 across the building stock. 

We cannot support this strongly enough. Our landlord clients are driven by MEES, the Fuel Poverty Target and the Net Zero target. That is to say, by government standards not corporate responsibility. They need to know now what standards they need to meet when in order to design and phase works. Without advance warning landlords cannot easily avoid duplication of cost and effort, and meet affordability goals become harder to meet. Equally a clear direction is needed for owner-occupiers. We don’t know what is coming for the housing market but the longer the time-frame the more potential there is for embedding energy efficiency improvements alongside other works to homes. 

Skills and employment

Review professional standards and skills across the building, heat and ventilation supply trades with a nationwide training programme to upskill the existing workforce. 

Back in January we heralded National Grid’s analysis of the net zero energy workforce and demonstrated the skills gap in the retrofit sector. We found that lifting the country’s housing stock to EPC band C by 2030 required a 139% rise in the number of people working in the domestic refurbishment sector to cover the additional work. The positive aspect here is that this presents an exciting opportunity for job creation across every region of the UK,  and we are now offering area-based analysis to all our local authority clients as they seek to understand the role of retrofit in their local post Covid recovery.  

Performance monitoring

Reform monitoring metrics and certification to reflect real world performance, rather than modelled data (e.g. Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP)). Accurate performance testing and reporting must be made widespread, committing developers to the standards they advertise. 

We agree with this direction of travel – we are strong advocates of good quality work; performance has to deliver what was promised. But we do not think the problem is SAP; it is what is used in addition to it.  Monitoring data can help provide evidence where energy efficiency measures fall short but there are two reasons SAP is not at fault for poor quality performance or monitoring approaches: 

  • SAP would provide the baseline against which performance would be tested. It is not an either/or question. 
  • Problems identified by monitoring data would generally be due to poor quality detailed design, the quality of a building works, and lack of oversight by Building Control rather than the way in which data is modelled by SAP.  

We are not saying the SAP system is perfect. Its development needs to be more agile in response to new technologies and issues identified by users, and indeed the system needs to understand and support the greater potential for its use than is currently realised. We wrote back in April of how the SAP rating aligns with cost rather than carbon emissions, which presents a risk to achieving net zero. This is the advantage of our CROHM analysis method, which allows clients to consider SAP targets in context with carbon emissions, fuel poverty risk and excess cold, allowing each client to target the measures they care about much more specifically. 

You can read the full report here