The dust has settled - where will the new Government take us over the next five years?

Author: Kerry Mashford 22/06/2015

The dust having settled after the unexpected General Election result, our Kerry Mashford considers what the landscape for energy and energy efficiency will look like over the next five years.

Unfettered by a coalition and unrestrained by the Liberal Democrats, will David Cameron take to the task of governing ‘unleashed’ as one national newspaper put it or will he adopt a more ‘one-nation’ approach?

We can take some comfort from the fact that he hasn’t s appointed a climate sceptic to head up DECC. Having previously been a Parliamentary Under Secretary at the department, Amber Rudd provides some continuity and was able to hit the ground running. Overall, and under the circumstances, she’s an encouraging appointment for the improved use of energy in buildings and the UK’s progress to a low-carbon economy.

Although the Conservative manifesto made reference to affordable and reliable energy, keeping energy bills low and providing help to insulate homes, it was noticeably thin on firm commitments in the area of energy efficiency and – going forward - there will inevitably be support of some kind for fracking and North Sea oil and gas, a bearing down on green taxes and on-shore wind and maybe some rolling back of previous energy efficiency legislation.

For example, having taken over the DCLG baton from Eric Pickles, we live in hope that Greg Clark does not persevere with his predecessor’s aim to abolish DECs, removing the public sector’s main tool for measuring and tracking its energy efficiency. He is, however, expected to follow through on the previous Government’s proposal to dilute the Zero Carbon standard for new homes and will also have to deliver on the new commitment to extend right to buy to social housing tenants, where the devil most definitely lies in the detail.

Whatever we in the industry might have thought about them, it’s now very likely that we won’t get anywhere near some of the more ambitious commitments made in the other main parties’ manifestos and in Labour’s pre-election Green Plan:

  • Interest-free loans for energy efficiency improvements.
  • Targets for all social and private rented homes to reach Band C by 2027, and a statutory target to bring the homes of all fuel-poor households to the same level by the same year.
  • A more devolved model (involving local authorities and social housing providers) for the delivery of energy efficiency measures.
  • The abolition of Stamp Duty and the reform of rates and council tax for business owners and householders who improve the energy efficiency of their homes and businesses.
  • Making saving energy an infrastructure priority and boosting the economy through growth and job creation.
  • A Green Buildings Act to set new energy efficiency targets (including a long-term ambition for every home to reach an EPC Band C by 2035).
  • A commitment to retrofitting five million homes over the next decade.
  • An energy price freeze.

One thing is pretty much certain, however. With its new tone, the Government will need to review the ailing Green Deal programme and find some way of revitalising the whole issue of improving energy efficiency in both domestic and commercial buildings, especially its financing, which needs to be cheaper and more workable, as well as attractive and accessible to investors of all kinds.

We are certainly in for some interesting times!