The future of energy – a need for self-reliance


In the previous post in this series, we looked at the global markets and events influencing energy prices, and because of these variables, the price of electricity is only going one way – and it isn’t down.

We live in an age of fragile world markets, politically-motivated events, concerns around world food production and potentially climate change driven catastrophes like the recent hurricanes across the Caribbean and the southern states of America – all of which impact on the availability and cost of energy production.

This clearly highlights the need for the UK to become more self-reliant at a national level, and for the government to create mechanisms for us to move towards a more sustainable society in terms of energy production and usage. But that’s unlikely to happen either.

Under David Cameron’s government, the longstanding trajectory of building regulations changed with the withdrawal of a ratchet mechanism for zero carbon homes called The Code for Sustainable Homes; which had been in place for over nine years and which the construction industry and its supply chain had embraced.

Now, this target has been pushed onto the backburner. With our current fragile government focussed entirely on negotiating Brexit, there isn’t really room for sustainability targets and so government-driven building regulations are likely to stay as they are until at least 2020. So perhaps then we need to look to a more local level and consider the ability of town, city and county councils’ to influence sustainable through planning and building regulations.

There is some hope here; depending on where you live, the amount of solar we are seeing specified to go onto new homes is gradually increasing, with a growing number of local councils taking the lead in terms of more sustainable building standards in their localities. Scotland, for example, has higher and more solar-friendly building standards than the rest of the country, installing solar panels on around 60 percent of new homes.

Planning authorities in London are following suit, although there are constraints in terms of the type of building since high rise flats may not have the roof space for solar panels. We’re also seeing more eco-driven building regulations in other pockets of the country, including parts of Devon, the Southeast, Lancashire and Yorkshire, where planning authorities have clear objectives to drive local energy from renewables.

But again, this is a complex and time-consuming process; at the moment, it’s down to individual councils to decide how and when they’re going to implement sustainability targets – if at all. So if the drive to become carbon-free and more independent in our energy production isn’t going to come directly from global markets, national governments or local councils, where will it come from?

The answer is simple; it’s us. As consumers, we now have the power not only to demand more sustainable homes from our local authorities, but to take a greater level of responsibility for the production of our own energy.

Our houses are generally more sustainable now than they’ve ever been; most of us have double or triple glazing, and we have fairly high levels of insulation in our walls, floors and ceilings. New build homes now come with A-Rated appliances which generally use much less electricity. Therefore, the energy needs of the average house are lower now than they ever were.

Check out Part Three in our Sustainability Series to find out how we as consumers can begin to become more sustainable in our energy production.

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