Minimum energy efficiency standards sought for homes put on market

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Homeowners should have to meet minimum energy efficiency standards for their houses when they put them on the market, a study has urged.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions from buildings will be a key part of tackling climate change, and meeting legal targets for around 2030 could deliver £45 billion in benefits including savings on energy costs, improved air quality and health.

But Government policies are set to miss the targets for cutting emissions from buildings by 18%, the report from the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) and the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) said.

Uncertainty over how well the policies will play out could mean emissions from homes and businesses could exceed the limits for the period 2028-2032 by 30%, the report warned.

The research examined 48 policies that could reduce uncertainty and further cut emissions and makes 15 recommendations for the Government to take forward.

The Government has previously abandoned a flagship "green deal" home energy efficiency scheme, which had very low take-up and ditched targets to make homes "zero carbon" by 2016.

Recommendations in the new study include introducing minimum energy efficiency standards at point-of-sale for homes and businesses and tightening new building standards so they are zero carbon or near zero carbon.

A programme of technical and financial assistance should help property owners meet standards for energy efficiency when they sell their buildings, the report recommended.

Pedro Guertler, research director at ACE, said the move would be needed for the UK to meet its climate targets.

"It would also have a transformative effect on our buildings - making the places we live and work in cheaper to run, more comfortable, and healthier, more productive spaces to be in.

"I'll be the first to acknowledge that such a requirement is perceived as challenging to introduce, but successive governments have seen through far greater challenges in other policy areas."

And he said: "The new requirement for all properties to achieve a minimum standard of energy performance at point of sale - an ideal time to undertake renovations - would need to be trailed long before it came into force.

"And support for achieving it - great free advice about insulation, efficient appliances and low carbon heating systems, attractive finance deals and financial rewards for going further than you have to - would need to be introduced well in advance, to ensure high quality results, and to make it quick and easy for all affected property owners to do."

Dr Jan Rosenow, senior associate at RAP, said reducing emissions from buildings to meet targets set out for 2028-2032 in the "fifth carbon budget" would be hugely beneficial for the UK economy.

"Unlike many environmental necessities, efficient buildings more than pay for themselves: we estimate the net benefit of meeting the 5th carbon budget in buildings from energy cost savings, emissions savings, improved air quality and health, and comfort and productivity to be in excess of £45 billion."

In addition, there would be skilled employment needed to transform buildings, the value of avoided gas imports, boost to the wider economy and the additional revenue of the economic activity that would be generated for the Exchequer, he said.