Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Passiv Insistence versus 'Zero Carbon' homes

From the Solar Trade Association & the Renewable Energy Association
At the last Cabinet (Holding the Executive to account) meeting Lib Dem Councillor Christine Iredale submitted the following question.

" Because of the Government’s zero carbon housing policy developers will soon be required to pay for carbon reduction schemes in Kirklees. Would the Cabinet Member agree that this “allowable solutions” money could be used to further enhance the homes building policy Kirklees Liberal Democrats will propose later today?  For example, it could help to pay for the installation of energy efficiency measures on the new homes, such as solar hot water panels.”

I was rather surprised the Lib Dems are wanting to talk about the Coalition's so called Zero Carbon Homes policy as it is widely regarded as a big disappointment by those concerned with reducing the carbon emissions of new homes. With the backtracking and the amendments to the policy a 'Zero Carbon Home' is one that emits carbon at 32kgC02/m2 as opposed to the 47kgCO2/m2 that a house built to 2006 Building Regulations emitted. You would be forgiven for thinking 'zero emissions' meant well 'zero emissions' but that is Government 'Newspeak' for you. It is really a measure of the success of the Home Builders Federation in getting the Government to lower standards and therefore their costs.

"allowable solutions" simply means opting out of high efficiency solutions for buildings by paying a sum of money to other carbon saving initiatives.  Funding  was, at one point, going to be destined for use by Local Authorities. This would have made a lot of sense, as it could have been targeted at those people in fuel poverty or on community renewables initiatives but now developers decide how they want to use it and there is a lot of uncertainty over where it will end up and what it will be used for.

In  Planning Resource magazine it stated,

Housebuilders will decide how to meet carbon mitigation requirements under the zero carbon homes policy rather than local authorities, the government has confirmed.

Colin Morrison who is a  director and head of sustainability at a building consultancy Turley, said:

 "Based on our experience of allowable solutions projects and policies within emerging local plans, this will come as a disappointment to local authorities as it could have represented a significant source of funding for local carbon reduction projects. 

So unfortunately the ‘greenest government ever’, with a Department of Energy and Climate Change led by a Lib Dem Minister, has failed to come up with the green goods yet again.

However in the absence of effective policies coming out of the UK Govt, Kirklees Council can, within the Local Plan, set its own standards for buildings erected on land the Council owns and they can be better than those established by central government.  Housing built to a Passivhaus standard has very high insulation performance, low heating demand , controlled ventilation and very low fuel bills. A Passivhaus social housing development built in Oldham by  Keepmoat has homes that are costing tenants no more than £20a year in fuel bills and the builders were trained by the Green Building Company which is based in Huddersfield.

So I so will certainly be pushing hard for Passivhaus standards on Council land as part of the new Kirklees Local Plan. In the absence of good policy from central government we at least can do our best at the local level and show them the error of their ways.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Open Rights Group Euro Hustings 8/5/14

Government surveillance of citizens has been high on the political agenda with the 'emergency' Data Retention & Investigatory Powers Bill' that was passed by 438 - 51 in the House of Commons. Backed somewhat amazingly by the Liberal Democrats but what it has to do with Liberal values I really don't know. During the Euro Election Campaign we had a hustings on digital rights  (no UKIP Candidate attended yet again or Labour but that was unusual for them). Not an amazing attendance it has to be said but if you've got a spare couple of hours here's the panel debate. It is supposed to be raining this weekend and the telly might be rubbish. I'm really selling this!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

'The first 100 Days of the next Government' the Local Government Association vision and the Energy Company Obligation

The Local Government Association  launched its new vision document 'Investing in our Nation's Future - The first 100 days of the next government'. It marks the vision of the LGA under the new Labour Leadership of  Cllr David Sparks.

 I was able to offer some input on an earlier draft on the the issue of the Energy Company Obligation.

 On Page 8 it states a proposal to

"allow Councils, not just energy companies, to use the percentage of money already collected for energy efficiency schemes through fuel bills to insulate homes, reducing household bills and giving those families in greatest need more money to put towards rent and mortgages" .

All very well so far, but I argued that the money from the Energy Company Obligation should be managed exclusively by Local Authorities and 'The Big 6' should no longer act as the gatekeepers of ECO funding. So I was pleased to see on Page 22 with the tabulated summary of the proposals that  the word 'just'  from the above quote is removed, effectively cutting the Energy Companies out of management of ECO'. The £0.9 Billion/year indicated is well short of what is needed for a mass national energy efficiency programme like the GreenNew Deal,  but at least there will be a greater opportunity to ensure funding is properly targeted if made available by Government directly to Councils. The best way of targeting this limited funding would be to ask Councils to produce credible plans showing how they will deliver energy efficiency schemes in their areas, reducing fuel poverty and carbon emissions. Local authorities would be encouraged to find matched funding from a variety of sources such as the EU, public health budgets etc to demonstrate joined up working and thinking.

There are some disappointments in the document. An assumption that the fracking issue for local government is all  about how much money localities can extract from the process with an implicit assumption that Fracking is an acceptable policy option. 

Greens Propose Parish Plan for local libraries

Green Party Cllrs Rober Barraclough and Derek Hardcastle at Kirkburton Library

Kirkburton Parish Council, which has a majority of Green Party Councillors, last night proposed the first part of a plan to save local Libraies

Councillor Derek Hardcastle who serves as a Councillor on both Kirklees and Kirkburton Parish Council proposed that the Parish Council should,

“investigate the feasibility of establishing Parish Libraries Trusts where the current Kirklees owned libraries at Kirkburton and Shepley are ‘asset transferred ‘ to the community by Kirklees Council. We will seek a partnership agreement with Kirklees Council to retain Library services including an enhanced service offering home library services to elderly and disabled householders in all villages served by the Parish. Furthermore the Parish will investigate and come back with proposals for transferring the Parish council office into Kirkburton Library to help ensure a sustainable future for this key community facility. ”

Green Party Councillor Robert Barraclough who also serves on Kirklees Council and Kirkburton Parish Council said,

“there is a real danger that if we do not act decisively that we could lose rural library services. Kirklees has indicated that it is looking to halve the Library budget. This could mean having only a few large Libraries in towns such as Huddersfield, Batley and Dewsbury. We simply cannot wait for this to happen or just make meaningless statements from the sidelines. Those communities that take the initiative and act early will have the best chance of retaining services. If we do not engage with the administration of the Council in Kirklees to seek a sustainable resolution to the Libraries issue we could lose these valued community buildings and services.