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Debate on Zero Carbon continues with recent Government announcement

Local authorities have been allowed to continue to set their own energy targets up until the start of the operation of Zero Carbon standards expected in 2016, in an under-reported announcement from the Government this month [1] . Originally, the Government had expressed a desire to curb the ability of local authorities to set their own targets prior to Zero Carbon.

The Planning and Energy Act 2008 enabled local authorities to set energy performance standards over and above the minimum requirement of Building Regulations Part L. This has been widely applied by local authorities, not least by the Greater London Authority which currently requires developers to reduce regulated CO2 by a minimum of 35% over Part L 2013 for major developments. In our experience this target is regularly achieved through carbon compliance (i.e. on-site measures).

In contrast, the Zero Carbon standard is now expected to require a 100% reduction in regulated energy, with the legislation allowing developers to construct only a 19% reduction on-site as long as they offset the remaining carbon through Allowable Solutions.

Therefore, for many sites, the Zero Carbon standard is expected to be easier for many developers to achieve and is considered a retrograde step compared to what is currently being achieved by many sites across the country. This has continued the wide debate on the definition of Zero Carbon, and it is clear that there is a long way to achieve a cross party political consensus on this issue.

With the recent announcement, the Government is allowing local authorities to continue to set their own standards recognising that the transitional arrangements to Zero Carbon must be sensible.