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Wiltshire Climate Strategy Discussion Document January 2021

Built Environment

More than two thirds of domestic emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels in the form of gas, heating oil and other fuels and this will need to be changed in a net zero carbon future.   

Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) show how energy efficient a domestic property is,  and almost all of Wiltshire's 201,991 dwellings have ratings B-F.  Energy inefficient housing can lead to fuel poverty (where households are unable to keep their homes warm for a reasonable cost) and this is a major problem for many households and can result in poor health. Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE): Warm & Safe Wiltshire (opens new window) provides home energy efficiency advice and grants to fuel-poor households.  

The data for non-domestic buildings also shows low levels of energy efficiency and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels. Within the emissions for non-domestic buildings, in particular for industry, there will be significant emissions from processes, product use and machinery rather than solely from the buildings.

New national funding streams for retrofitting buildings were launched in 2020: the Green Homes Grant (opens new window) aims to stimulate energy efficiency and the demand for technologies such as air source heat pumps in homes, and the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (opens new window) is focused on decarbonising heat in public buildings.   

Where we are now? New buildings

New dwellings and buildings are being built to higher standards due to more stringent requirements within building regulations, but currently new buildings within Wiltshire are not required to be zero carbon or to include renewable energy generation or storage technologies. Higher standard individual developments (incorporating for example high levels of energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies and layouts that take advantage of natural solar gain and shading) do sometimes come forward. 

Housing forecasts undertaken for the emerging Local Plan predict Wiltshire will need between 40,840 and 45,630 additional dwellings over the period of 2016 to 2036. Even when taking the higher figure, 60% of this number have already been granted permission or allocated in the existing local plan and as such offer limited opportunity for zero carbon standards and future retrofitting will be required. New allocations in the emerging Local Plan, which can be required built in accordance to the emerging Local Plan policies, will offer the greatest opportunity to implement higher standards

What does a climate resilient and carbon neutral Wiltshire look like?

In order for Wiltshire to achieve our 2030 ambition, all existing and new buildings would need to be net zero carbon. This would mean retrofitting approximately 400 homes per week for the next 10 years. Some housing types are likely to be more challenging and expensive than others to retrofit, such as listed buildings or older properties that have solid walls.

There are national aims to decarbonise electricity coming from the grid.  However as shown above, a bigger part of the challenge is how to decarbonise heating as this is essential for net zero carbon. Alternative forms of space heating will be preferred, replacing gas - whether this is technologies such as individual heat pumps or electric heating, wider area schemes such as district heating networks, or new technologies such as hydrogen. To help store energy generated at the property and to help with demand management (see the energy section) buildings and domestic properties may also require heat and electricity storage, such as using batteries from electric vehicles.   

To ensure maximum energy reduction, the users of all buildings will need to understand how to use them efficiently and policy will need to be in place to ensure fuel poverty is being tackled. 

Existing properties are only one part of the residential mix; new buildings will need to be built to a zero carbon standard (or if this is not possible within the current regulatory framework, they will also need to be retrofitted relatively soon after construction). 

Furthermore, both existing and new buildings and places will need to incorporate a range of measures to ensure they are resilient and adaptable to climate change.

What will make this happen?

A skilled workforce and strong supply chains will be needed to deliver the scale of retrofitting needed (see Green Economy theme).  Alongside that householders and businesses will need to implement measures at a significant pace.  Funding will be important, in particular to stimulate the uptake of new technologies, and to ensure those in, or at risk, of fuel poverty or on low incomes can access the measures. 

National policy and funding will have an important role in driving change (via for example the Green Home Grants (opens new window) mentioned previously or new standards such as the minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) (opens new window) in domestic rented property).  National policy needs to avoid being a barrier to the implementation of higher local standards, for example, limits on the measures that can be put forward via planning policy. Significant funding will need to be allocated for retrofitting schemes, building on the Green Homes Grant and Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

The Government's Energy White Paper (opens new window) (December 2020) aims to:

  • increase voluntary installation of heat pumps from 30,000 a year to 600,000 a year by 2028 - with a planned Clean Heat Grant to support installations from 2022.
  • phase out installations of gas boilers by mid-2030s - with all newly installed heating systems from this date being low-carbon or able to be converted to use clean fuel.
  • ensure new homes built from 2025 onwards are zero-carbon ready - including consulting on whether it's feasible and appropriate to end the connection of new-build homes to the gas grid.  

The Committee on Climate Change has also recommended phasing out sales of oil boilers by 2028 and making new gas boilers hydrogen-ready by 2025.

Further to the steer to phase out gas boilers, national government will need to provide leadership on which technology is pursued - hydrogen or electric - and until we have this decision efforts will need to focus on solutions that are compatible with each scenario.

What Wiltshire Council can do 

The council can drive forward and build upon its own initiatives such as new zero carbon council homes, retrofitting council homes, Warm and Safe Wiltshire, and access as many funding streams as possible, for example Salix (opens new window) 0% loans 

  • Partnership working and engagement with organisations within Wiltshire will be key to raise awareness of the scale of the challenge and how everyone can take action 
  • Work with partners, for example to assist in the creation of new jobs, skills and supply chains 
  • Look to strengthen policy, a key one being within the review of the Local Plan  
  • Highlight examples of best practice  
  • Lobby government - for example in relation to national policy barriers and funding for retrofitting hard to treat properties

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