What the Clean Growth Strategy means for building services engineers

The Clean Growth Strategy commits the UK to binding emissions targets until 2050. Hywel Davies looks at the details

The long-awaited announcement setting out how we will meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets has finally been published. The Clean Growth Strategy1 aims to link growth in the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) with reducing greenhouse gas emissions and delivering an affordable energy supply for businesses and consumers.

The 163-page strategy firmly commits the government to the 2008 Climate Change Act, which sets binding and challenging targets for the country to reduce emissions until 2050. It offers welcome clarity as we look forward to buildings and energy-related regulation in the UK after 2019. The Strategy’s executive summary suggests the ‘strategy for clean growth starts from a position of strength,’ noting that the UK is set to outperform the first three carbon budget targets, while GDP grows over the same period. It also accepts, however, that meeting the fourth and fifth budget targets will be harder.

Energy and fuel efficiency have improved in recent years: household energy consumption has fallen by 17% since 1990; cars are up to 16% more fuel efficient than in 2000; and low carbon technology costs have fallen significantly.

Boiler plus

Boiler Plus amendments to the standards for replacement boilers installed in existing dwellings:

  • All gas- and oil-fired boilers must be installed with thermostat and timer
  • All replacement gas-fired boilers must have a minimum efficiency of 92% ErP4.
  • Gas-fired combination boilers must have at least one of the following controls: flue gas heat recovery; weather compensation; load compensation; smart thermostat with automation and optimisation.

The Strategy does not acknowledge that many of these gains arise from European provisions, such as the Energy Related Products Framework Directive (or ErP Directive) or the Energy Performance of Buildings and Energy Efficiency Directives. Take up of LED lighting across Europe has particularly helped reduce domestic energy use.

But the Strategy builds on all these measures, bringing aspects of them into energy and building policy outside the EU. There is also a specific commitment to higher standards from April 2018, with new rules for domestic boilers increasing the efficiency of replacement gas boilers to 92% and requiring replacement installations to incorporate certain controls2.

Chapter 4 of the strategy describes 102 policies and proposals, covering:

  • Improving business and industry efficiency, and supporting clean growth
  • Improving our homes
  • Accelerating the shift to low carbon transport
  • Delivering clean, smart, flexible power
  • Enhancing the benefits and value of our natural resources
  • Leading in the public sector

 “The Strategy does not acknowledge that many of these gains arise from European directives”

A third of the proposals relate to improving homes and businesses.

There is a repeated commitment to review Building Regulations in relation to energy use, subject to the outcome of Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of the regulations and a clear proviso that any changes must be ‘cost-effective and affordable’, as well as ‘safe and practical’.

Impact on building services

Chapter 4 of the Clean Growth Strategy sets out a range of potential policy measures. Some, such as ending the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme, are more clearly defined than others – for example, decarbonising off-gas grid buildings. These are the policies aimed at improving energy effiency in homes and businesses:

Unlocking business energy efficiency

Supporting a 20% improvement by 2030; review of the Enhanced Capital Allowance product list; closure of the CRC scheme and increases in Climate Change Levy; building on, and comprehensively assessing, the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS); streamlining energy and carbon reporting after the CRC; offering advice to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to encourage uptake of energy efficiency; improving the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings; consulting on improvements to Building Regulations to promote low carbon heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in new commercial buildings; phasing out high carbon fossil-fuel heating in commercial premises off the gas grid.

Improving our homes

Confirmation of the role of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) in upgrading rented homes, and potentially raising the standard in future, including for social housing and fuel-poor homes; encouraging financing for green upgrades and reforming the Green Deal; supporting implementation of Each Home Counts and provision of a new advice scheme for energy efficiency; action to raise the quality of domestic energy improvement works; improved standards for replacement boilers from April 2018; renewed commitment to offer smart meters to all homes by 2020; encouraging uptake of cleaner heating systems.

The Strategy also looks at low carbon transport, clean power, natural resources and the potential leadership role of the public sector.

There is an emphasis on improving workmanship standards. Wider consequential improvements – which have been the cause of much previous debate – are expressly ruled out, although the improvement that gained widest support is now being implemented in the strengthened replacement-boiler requirements (see ‘Boiler Plus’ panel).

With renewed commitment to the Climate Change Act, and an acknowledged need to cut emissions, install low carbon heating and cooling, and make our buildings much more efficient, there is plenty to support. Whether delivery can match ambition remains to be seen, but there is much here to help offer certainty and a clear way forward for the building services sector over the next few years.


1 www.gov.uk/government/publications/clean-growth-strategy

2 Heat in Buildings – Boiler Plus can be found at bit.ly/CJNov17BP along with a link to the amendments to the domestic compliance guide.