BEIS claims UK buildings can save over £1bn through energy efficiency

Britain plans to introduce a range of new measures for improving energy efficiency and cutting transport emissions in a bid to speed up its response to tackle climate change.

A new Environment Bill introduced to Parliament on Tuesday is in response to criticism from the government’s own climate advisers that the U.K. is falling behind in implementing policies that will deliver a net-zero carbon emissions economy by 2050.

The proposals include a focus on making commercial buildings more efficient, a move that could save consumers 1 billion pounds a year by 2030, according to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Government has also suggested the possibility of setting minimum energy efficiency standards for rented commercial buildings to level “B” by 2030 – the second highest rating of seven.  

In addition to this, a consultation is being launched on proposals to make it simpler to obtain planning permission for large-scale energy storage facilities, such as large battery units for storing power.

The new legislation is also aimed at strengthening the U.K.’s environmental protection after it leaves the European Union. It includes the creation of a new body, the Office for Environmental Protection.

The Department for Transport said that it plans to start a consultation looking at how all modes of transport can help deliver the sorts of cuts needed to reach net-zero carbon.

“We want to work with industry and communities around the country to develop this plan –- to make our towns and cities better places to live, help to create new jobs, improve air quality and our health, and take urgent action on climate change,” said Grant Shapps, the transport secretary.

Since the U.K. passed into law its intention to become a net-zero emissions economy by mid-century, it has made billions of pounds worth of commitments into battery, hydrogen and carbon-capture technology. In its July report the Committee on Climate Change said that the previous government had delivered on just one of the 25 policy areas needed to meet emissions targets.

UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen believes that the announcement is “most encouraging.”

“We have long called for more ambitious policies to improve the energy performance of our commercial buildings.  It is a welcome complement to the government’s recently announced plans to strengthen energy efficiency standards for new homes – and shows that they are finally understanding the importance of tackling buildings emissions as we strive to meet our climate targets,” she said.

“By signalling a long-term Band B target for rented commercial buildings, the government is providing welcome certainty, which will help underpin businesses’ energy improvement plans and the supporting investment decisions.  As the market has already shown, minimum standards for rented buildings can have a transformative effect on their performance.

“We are also pleased to see the government at last acknowledging the importance of mandatory operational energy ratings for commercial buildings.  There is strong evidence from the Australian NABERS scheme, amongst others, that mandatory operational ratings can radically drive down energy use and reduce emissions.  The best-performing business buildings in Melbourne use between five and six times less energy than their London equivalents.”

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