How Low?

Examining how to achieve optimal carbon savings from existing housing stock

Project duration: July 2007 to March 2008

Over 27% of the UK’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from the residential sector and we cannot meet our climate change targets without tackling the emissions from our homes. Many of the measures which will enable us to do this also improve the quality of our homes and will reduce energy bills. The UK’s housing stock – which is generally poorly insulated and energy inefficient – could be easily transformed into cheaper to run, low carbon homes by the end of the next decade. But, without a radical shift in Government policy, the UK is set to fall short of the Government’s own target for cutting household energy bills and reducing CO2 emissions.

The ‘How low?’ study has shown that urgent government action is needed to ensure the UK meets its targets for residential carbon emissions, and to ensure it is on track for 80% cuts in the sector by 2050. The study examines the measures, market transformation and behavioural changes needed to achieve these targets. In short:

  • in order to achieve the UK’s 2020 targets we will need to go beyond the short payback energy efficiency measures that feature in current policies. We will need to deploy significant numbers of low and zero carbon technologies (LZC) and solid wall insulation
  • the government must act now to ensure that the 80% reduction is achieved. This requires a strong set of supporting policies and financing mechanisms that support the deployment of sustainable energy measures

Achieving an 80% reduction in residential emissions by 2050 would require: the full installation of cost effective measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation; the deployment of significant numbers of solid wall insulation and low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies; an uplift in the energy efficiency of household appliances; a significant reduction in the carbon content in electricity through improved generating efficiencies and increased large-scale renewable energy generation; the use of green gas from waste or other organic matter and a 20% improvement in people’s behaviour to further reduce home energy use.

The report concludes that a series of policy measures should be introduced to support these measures, including:

  • fiscal incentives such as reduced Value Added Tax (VAT), stamp duty rebates, Council Tax rebates and grant funding for sustainable energy measures
  • low interest loans to the implementation of measures in the able to pay sector
  • an ambitious programme of measures supported by the supplier obligation 2011 to 2020
  • minimum standards at the point of sale for houses
  • a transformation of the energy market through feed-in-tariffs and a renewable heat incentive
  • an evaluation of personal carbon trading or carbon taxes as a future policy option i.e. 2013 to 2015 onwards
For further information contact:

Ian Preston | 0117 934 1422

Relevant downloads and links:

Stay up to date with our work - sign up for our fortnightly newsletter