Green business leaders urge continued support for Merton Rule
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is being urged to maintain support for the Merton Rule, the only policy driver for renewables in new buildings.
In an open letter to the Communities Secretary, over 50 organisations are defending the Merton Rule, the only policy currently requiring new buildings to use renewables.
Business leaders regard the Merton Rule as vitally important until full zero carbon standards are introduced to building regulations in 2016.
Signatories to the open letter range from small installers to industry associations and major multinationals.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) proposed in its Housing Standards Review consultation to “amend or remove” the Merton Rule.
It allows local government to stipulate higher energy standards for new homes than national building regulations, and specifies the inclusion of connected or on-site renewable energy systems.
Critics say that scrapping the measure would damage the on-site renewables industry, weaken local democracy and lead to higher energy bills in new homes.
Solar Trade Association (STA) Head of External Affairs, Leonie Greene said: “We now have affordable technologies to build energy bill anxiety out of UK homes.
"Given the political furore over energy costs, the government should be 100 per cent behind local authorities demanding new homes with very low energy bills”.
Until full zero carbon standards are applied in 2016, many believe the Merton Rule remains essential for sustaining jobs and skills in the new build renewables industry and low carbon construction.
Renewable Energy Association (REA) Head of On-site Renewables Mike Landy said: “Scrapping the Merton Rule would remove a vital bridge to the Zero Carbon standards promised for 2016, which will not be fully effective until the end of this decade.
“The resulting cliff edge would leave the new build renewables sector with near-empty order books for five or six years, meaning vital skills and jobs would be lost”.
Analysis by the STA, cited in the open letter to Eric Pickles, shows that the cost of incorporating solar PV in new homes can be extremely modest – from just £1,000 per home under a 10 per cent renewables Merton Rule.
Nick Molho, Head of Climate & Energy Policy at WWF, added: “Maintaining strong standards for our new homes will deliver such low carbon homes that are warmer, healthier and cheaper to run for all.
"It is in the gift of this government to stand firm and see that this is done by keeping the Merton Rule in place”.
The STA has also conducted analysis showing that the cost of solar hot water systems could fall by a third if the market can grow to a similar level to the domestic solar power market.
DCLG had said it would provide a ‘direction of travel’ on the Housing Standards Review in January, but it has given no indication so far.
DCLG is also consulting on ‘Allowable Solutions’, which would enable developers to deliver emissions reductions off-site instead of reducing the energy bills for the new homes’ occupants.
Landy concluded: “We call on government to commit to a clear roadmap for introducing zero carbon standards on time in 2016, and to preserve the Merton Rule until the standards are fully effective in driving renewables in new build.
"Industry confidence is at a low ebb and time is rapidly running out. Why wait any longer to future-proof our homes?”.
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