Making sense of UK targets for increased energy efficiency in homes
There is no doubt that the public now accepts that our climate is changing and human actions are causing these changes. Those actions mean that carbon dioxide levels are higher than any time in human history, impacting on all our lives in many different ways – from coastal erosion, increased flooding and water shortages. There can be no further delays in implementing strategies to address these challenges. The European Commission states that energy efficiency needs to be considered as a ‘source of energy in its own right’. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to support the transition to a low carbon economy, to prompt further investment opportunities and to create growth and employment. Putting energy efficiency first will bring down costs for consumers, reduce import dependency and redirect investments towards the kind of infrastructure that are smart and sustainable.
In the UK, the 2008 Climate Change Act requires the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by at least 80% by 2050. To ensure steady progress towards this 2050 goal, the Climate Change Act requires the Government to set intermediate targets – ‘carbon budgets’. These are caps on the GHG emissions that can be emitted across the UK during a five-year period. Five carbon budgets have been set to date, putting in place caps on GHG emissions from 2008 to 2032. In July 2016, the 5th Carbon Budget was set, which requires a 57% average reduction in emissions between 2028-32 across the UK compared to a 1990 baseline. (see image)
The UK played a critical role in securing the 2015 Paris Agreement – the first ever international climate change agreement, where 195 countries made a commitment to reduce emissions within the long-term goal of limiting global temperature increases to ‘well below 2 degrees’. The Agreement puts pressure on all countries to bring forward long-term emissions reduction strategies by 2020. The Clean Growth Strategy is the UK’s long-term strategy in response to this requirement.
The Clean Growth Strategy outlines progress that has been made to date in terms of meeting the Climate Change Act targets and in relation to UK homes, it reports that the average household’s energy consumption has fallen by over 17% since 1990, driven by a combination of:
- Tighter building and products standards – e.g. better boilers
- The uptake of insulation and other energy efficiency measures
- Greater awareness of potential areas for energy saving
But the Strategy goes on to commit to even further reductions in GHG emissions from homes and promises policies which will encourage homeowners to keep on improving their homes where it is cost effective and affordable to do so. The Strategy acknowledges that to achieve targets set out for 2032 under the 5th Carbon Budget, there will be a need to ensure existing buildings waste even less energy. It states its aspiration is that as many homes as possible are improved and upgraded to an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of Band C by 2035, with those ‘fuel-poor’ homes meeting this requirement by 2030.
The Strategy recognises that improved energy efficiency has other benefits for the homeowner including reduced heating bills and substantial health benefits. There is a clear link between cold homes and ill-heath, where existing conditions (such as respiratory illness or mental health conditions) are exacerbated. The Building Research Establishment (BRE) estimated, conservatively, that the cost of cold and damp homes to the NHS is approx. £760m a year.
More recently however, the Government’s official adviser on climate change, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in its 2018 Progress Report to Parliament : Reducing UK Emissions states that there is much to be done by the Government if it is to meet its ambitious targets and deliver on the Clean Growth Strategy. Current policy is failing to drive uptake of initiatives outlined in the strategy, including for highly cost effective measures such as home insulation. It states that home insulation rates are now at their lowest in ten years, even though home insulation measures offer highly cost effective opportunities for carbon savings whilst providing comfort and health benefits and reducing energy bills. The Progress Report is clear that what is needed as a matter of urgency from the Government now is the implementation of concrete policies for delivering against the commitment on retrofit and bringing all homes up to EPC Band C by 2035.
This 2018 Report is further reinforced by the Committee on Climate Change in its 2019 Report : Net-Zero : The UK’s Contribution to Stopping Global Warming. The CCC now believe that the time is right for the UK to ‘set and vigorously pursue an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to ‘net-zero’ by 2050’. By setting this target, the UK will end its contribution to global warming within 30 years and will deliver on the commitment that the UK made by signing the Paris Agreement.
It once again notes that whilst many policy foundations are in place, a major ramp up on implementation and policy effort is now required and delivery must progress with far greater urgency. Many current plans are insufficiently ambitious, with others proceeding too slowly.
The report acknowledges that it is impossible to predict the exact mix of technologies and behaviours that will best meet the challenge of reaching net-zero emissions, but included in their analysis are measures which reduce demand for household energy across the economy. It also identifies actions that individuals in the UK can take to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to the UK and global goals. In the context of UK homes, the earlier recommendation that improving the energy efficiency of homes through measures such as draft-proofing, improved home insulation and the setting of thermostats no higher than 19 degrees is reaffirmed. The Report notes that active engagement from households in this way to reduce their carbon footprint will be vital in meeting set targets.
How can the range of ProPERLA Exterior Wall Coatings contribute to meeting these challenges?
We believe at ProPERLA UK Ltd that the key benefit our exterior wall coatings can bring to these challenges is their ability to keep buildings dry. Rain soaked buildings lead to damp exterior walls which act as thermal ‘bridges’ enabling heat from within the home to transfer to the outside of the property much quicker than it would if the walls remained dry. Heat always flows from warmer to cooler and whilst the homeowner might not realise this is happening because they are turning up the thermostat to keep their home warm and comfortable, in reality heat loss through wet or damp exterior walls contributes to approximately 35% of heat lost in a typical family home.
For this reason, we believe that coating UK homes and buildings with one of ProPERLA’s exterior wall coatings will help to reduce this heat loss. Once coated, the walls of the building will become super-hydrophobic – in other words they will no longer be able to get wet. Rain water will form beads and run off the surface of the building in the same way that a lotus-leaf repels water. Independent testing of our products showed that water absorption following coating was reduced by 93.4%. By keeping the walls dry in this way means that less heat travels through them and the homeowner will benefit from a warmer, cosier home without having the thermostat turned up.
ProPERLA Masonry Crème is a super hydrophobic coating specially designed for brick built buildings. It is a clear, one-coat product which penetrates into the brickwork to provide an invisible insulation barrier and which does not change the external appearance of the building. ProPERLA Façade Coating is more appropriate for those buildings which require a coloured coating system. These products are of particular benefit to solid wall properties where other insulation measures are not possible, but they also provide additional benefits to more modern buildings which have cavity walls. As well as keeping the external walls dry, the coated walls will help to keep any installed cavity wall insulation dry and prevent possible future problems associated with rain getting through to the insulation and the insulation itself subsequently acting as a bridge taking moisture through to internal walls.
Additional benefits associated with ProPERLA exterior coating products include their long term performance – manufacturer’s guarantees are available for between 10-20 years depending on the coating used, although all products have a life-time expectancy of 25 years. Once coated, homeowners face less costs and disruption associated with upkeep and maintenance.
Our website fully explains how these products work and the technology that underpins them. It also details the independent testing that has been done to verify the benefits relating to thermal insulation, water repellency and 25 year performance.
In summary, we believe that ProPERLA exterior coating systems provide a cost-effective, minimally disruptive and long-term solution for UK homeowners to keep their properties dry…. And a dry building means a warmer building without the need to turn the thermostat up!
BEIS (2017) The Clean Growth Strategy
Committee on Climate Change (2019) Net Zero : The UK’s contribution to global warming
Committee on Climate Change (2018) Reducing UK emissions
European Commission Decision C (2018)4708 of 24 July 2018