- Retrofitting existing houses
- Retrofitting existing commercial and industrial premises
- Making new buildings net-zero
- Minimising energy use by amenity lighting
Buildings and lighting in outdoor spaces produced 38% of Devon’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2019.1
This section focuses on how to achieve net-zero buildings.2 It introduces goals for overcoming issues identified in the Thematic Hearings and the public Call for Evidence as barriers to achieving net-zero in Devon. Actions are then proposed to achieve the goals.
The Energy Supply section of the Plan explores decarbonising the electricity supply, including support for building-scale renewable electricity and energy storage.
9.2 The Change Needed
- Retrofit existing houses. We need high take-up of energy-efficiency measures, renewable energy and low-carbon heating technologies in our 581,000 homes.
- Retrofit existing commercial and industrial premises. The 53,000 non-domestic buildings in Devon also need upgrading.
- New buildings need to be net-zero.
- Minimise energy use by amenity lighting.
9.2.1 Retrofit Existing Houses
In Devon we need to insulate:
- All practicable lofts by 2022.3
- All cavity walls, where appropriate, by 2030.
- 36,000 solid walls by 2030 and 109,000 by 2050.
Once homes have been made more efficient, we need to eliminate GHG emissions from their heating systems. This will require:3
- 18,100 heat pumps in existing homes by 2030 and 344,000 by 2050.
- 91,000 homes connected to retrofitted district heating to distribute hot water in a network of highly-insulated pipes.
- The remaining houses (146,000) to be switched to either:
- green hydrogen;
- hybrid heat pumps which combine a heat pump with a gas boiler; or
- biomass boilers.
- A small number of homes using direct electric heating.
Off-gas buildings can have a heat pump installed if the building has been made more heat efficient. If this is not possible, a biomass boiler may be appropriate if there is space Alternatively, homes could use direct electric heaters, but these are expensive to run currently.
9.2.2 Retrofitting Existing Commercial and Industrial Premises
Energy efficiency upgrades need to achieve a 20% reduction in energy demand by 2030 and a 25% reduction in order to reach net-zero by 2050. It is assumed there will be 11,200 heat pumps in Devon’s non-residential buildings by 2030 and that heat pumps will meet 45% of heat demand by 2050.3 The rest will be met by low carbon district heating, hydrogen and biomass. Roofs can also be used for solar photovoltaic panels.
9.2.3 New Buildings
Improving and remodelling existing buildings where they are not suitable for modern needs should be favoured over demolition and new construction for both cost and emissions reasons. Where new construction is necessary, their construction and operation need to be net-zero as soon as possible.
Around 10% of the UK’s GHG emissions come from materials extraction, manufacturing, transportation and end-of-life decommissioning of products for new construction (embodied carbon).4 New buildings therefore need to be net-zero in both operation and construction.
9.2.4 Amenity Lighting
We can save energy in public and shared spaces through rationalising existing lighting and converting to LED technology. Progress has been made but more can be done and faster.
9.3 Greenhouse Gas Outcomes
Figure 9.1 shows Devon’s GHG emissions arising from fossil fuels used by buildings in the context of Devon’s total GHG emissions. Emissions from this sector in 2019 were 2.9Mt CO2e. The Figure also shows the projected reduction trajectory to 2050 as a result of the delivery of the UK Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) Further Ambition Scenario aided by the actions in this Plan. Through the activities identified in this Plan, by 2050, the emissions are expected to fall to 0.1Mt CO2e. These will be become net-zero through activities that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
9.4 Other Opportunities and Benefits
- Retrofitting buildings will generate 108,000 new, skilled jobs per year across the UK between 2020 and 2030. These include energy assessors, heating engineers and electricians, and in manufacturing and distribution.5
- Business models and supply chains have developed to deliver these upgrades.
- The national cost of cold homes to the NHS is estimated to be £2.5bn/year and will increase further with higher energy prices. Improving the thermal comfort of Devon homes could deliver major health benefits and financial savings for the NHS.5
- 12.3% of Devon’s population are in fuel poverty.6 Improving the energy efficiency of homes can reduce inequality, improve the productivity of the workforce and improve children’s educational attainment.5
9.5 Devon’s Goals to Meet Net-Zero
Devon has five goals relating to the Built Environment for how we achieve Net-zero.
9.5.1 Goal BA – Self-Financing Retrofit Has Been Delivered at Scale
Retrofitting a building to achieve net-zero has high upfront costs, between £32k and £60k for a house depending upon house type.7
An industry capable of delivering self-financing retrofit needs to be developed where the costs are affordable and balanced by the benefits to the building occupants and/or owners.
New models and technologies also need to be nurtured to bring down costs. In the meantime, greater financial incentives are needed, such as tax breaks and rebates, low-interest loans, green mortgages and collective purchasing. 8
The health and wellbeing benefits of living in a warm and net-zero carbon home need to be better communicated to encourage greater acceptance of net-zero homes as a social norm. Opening homes that have installed new measures can help to showcase their benefits. Community organisations can also play a vital role in raising awareness locally.
B1. Expand whole-house retrofit by working with social landlords to aggregate their housing stock and collectively procure retrofit.
B2. Take opportunities to enhance and raise awareness about financial support available for people and organisations to retrofit their properties.
B3. Raise awareness of the co-benefits of living in net-zero homes.
Needing action beyond Devon
B4. Work with Government to encourage VAT breaks on retrofit activity and products.
B5. Work with government to continue exploring the use of Council Tax and Business Rates to encourage energy efficiency upgrades of buildings.
9.5.2 Goal BB – Independent and Trusted Advice and Support on Retrofit is Available
There is no central provision of advice and support in Devon for people who want to make building improvements. Devon needs an energy advice service to increase confidence in building retrofit and make retrofitting easier. The service would help to finance improvements, coordinate works and undertake quality inspections.
Upgrading commercial properties is especially complex because of differences in design. Experiences of retrofitting commercial properties should be shared with other large energy consumers in the County.
B6. Establish a Devon-wide energy advice service.
B7. Keep abreast of innovative retrofit solutions emerging for businesses, pilot promising approaches and share experience with others.
9.5.3 Goal BC – Effective Regulations Require Energy Efficiency Improvements to Homes
The Devon Climate Assembly considered ways to encourage or require people to retrofit their homes, properties or business premises to reduce carbon emissions. Sixty-two percent of the Assembly were in favour of using regulation to require the upgrading of homes.9
The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard
The Government introduced the Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations to prohibit landlords from leasing property with an EPC below an E but the MEES Regulations are not working effectively.10
Changes are needed to MEES but these need care because a poorly designed scheme could increase rent payments and increase existing inequalities.
The Devon Climate Assembly (71%) supported using the development control system to require energy efficiency upgrades to the whole house when adding an extension (including conservatories where these are not classed as permitted development).9 Introducing such a system in Devon may require changes to national legislation.
B8. Evaluate the use of planning conditions to require energy-efficiency upgrades at the time of extending a home, and any other local regulatory opportunities that arise.
B9. Work with Government to ensure effective minimum energy efficiency standards and that resources are available to enforce non-compliance.
B10. Work with Government to explore additional mechanisms to require energy-efficiency upgrades.
9.5.4 Goal BD – New Buildings are High Quality and Net-Zero
Minimum standards for new buildings
The national Future Homes Standard will be introduced in 2025 to ensure new homes produce 75-80% lower CO2 emissions in their operational phase than required by 2013 Building Regulations.Government has confirmed that local planning authorities can request that new homes exceed the Building Regulations minimum energy efficiency requirements.11
Government proposes to introduce the Future Buildings Standard from 2025 for the operation of non-domestic buildings. Specifications for this are still under development. 12
There are no Government requirements to minimise embodied emissions from new buildings.
Local Plan reviews should implement zero-carbon buildings in operation and set embodied carbon targets as soon as possible where viable.
Viability of net-zero homes
Local authorities have found that large-volume housing developers can argue successfully that the cost of building to high energy efficiency standards means that other social and environmental benefits, such as the provision of affordable housing for local people, have to be reduced. It is vital to work collectively to demonstrate that it is financially viable to build quality, net-zero carbon homes in Devon.
This should be done, first, by maintaining a county-wide evidence base about the costs of developing net-zero carbon homes. Second, Devon Climate Emergency partners with land assets with the potential for housing development should work with developers to demonstrate modern, low-carbon construction techniques.
Setting an example
The Devon Climate Emergency partners and other ‘anchor institutions’ must implement net-zero standards for their new buildings to demonstrate leadership and encourage all organisations in Devon to do the same.
B11. Produce a regularly-updated Devon-wide evidence base on the costs of developing net-zero carbon homes for use in Local Plan viability appraisals.
B12. Local Plan reviews to implement zero-carbon buildings in operation and set embodied carbon targets as soon as possible where viable.
B13. Demonstrate the viability of building net-zero carbon homes using modern construction techniques by reviewing the opportunity for local authorities to use their own land in partnership with a developer.
B14. Planning authorities to ensure vegetation, and the necessary arrangements for maintenance, is included new development to aid building energy efficiency.
B15. Anchor institutions to deliver net-zero new build to set an example to other regional organisations and establish the South West as a leading region for low-carbon buildings.
Plymouth Energy Community Homes: affordable net-zero homes
Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) Homes is building 38 net-zero new build homes, supported by Homes England and in partnership with Plymouth City Council. These will offer local people comfortable homes with low energy needs and bills and a fair rent.
PEC’s model offers community shares so that the housing will be cooperatively owned and run, and in the future will be replicable without ongoing Government support.
PEC Homes is using ‘Energiesprong’ approaches to delivering net-zero housing developed by the Dutch Government in 2010. A key element of this is performance guarantees for tenants, including thermal comfort levels and annual net-zero energy. The reduced long-term energy and maintenance costs enable PEC Homes to finance higher initial investment costs. It also uses off-site manufacture of building components to achieve high quality performance at reduced costs through economies of scale.13
9.5.5 Goal BE – The Use of Energy for Lighting is Minimised in Public Spaces
Streetlights across Devon are being changed to LED technology. However, highways authorities must revisit opportunities to switch off and rationalise street lighting where this does not affect people’s safety or reduce the take-up of active travel. Changes must be done in consultation with local councils.
Managers of properties that have external lighting should look for opportunities to rationalise lighting provision and convert lamps to LED.
B16. All organisations to review external lighting provision and switch to LED technology.
B17. Work with Highways England to review opportunities for rationalisation of streetlight provision on its Devon network.
9.6 Summary of the Actions
Figure 9.2 shows the reference number and text of each Built Environment action in this Plan. The anticipated start and duration of each action is shown on the right-hand side of the diagram.
The actions with their duration highlighted in red in Figure 9.2 have been identified as a priority through two processes. First, the Net Zero Task Force assessed each action’s potential to contribute to significant emissions reductions and the likelihood they can be implemented in a timely fashion. Second, some actions were highlighted as important by respondents to the public consultation.
For more detail, including who can help to deliver these actions, see the full action table.
Delivering the actions in this section of the Plan will help to achieve the milestones in Figure 9.3. These milestones reflect the Climate Change Committee’s Further Ambition Scenario.
1 Mitchell A. et al. (2020) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report – Devon, Plymouth, Torbay 2019. Centre for Energy and Environment, University of Exeter. Available at: https://www.devonclimateemergency.org.uk/studies-and-data/devons-carbon-footprint/
2 Climate Change Committee (2019) Net-zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming. Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/net-zero-the-uks-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming/
3 Lash, D. et al. (2020) Net Zero Devon, Plymouth and Torbay. Centre for Energy and the Environment, University of Exeter. Available at: https://www.devonclimateemergency.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/DPT-net-zero-report-v1-140820.pdf
4 LETI (2020) Embodied Carbon Primer. Available at: https://b80d7a04-1c28-45e2-b904-e0715cface93.filesusr.com/ugd/252d09_8ceffcbcafdb43cf8a19ab9af5073b92.pdf
5 Jennings, N et al. (2019) Co-benefits of climate change mitigation in the UK: What issues are the UK public concerned about and how can action on climate change help to address them?,Grantham Research Institute, London.Available at: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/grantham-institute/public/publications/briefing-papers/Co-benefits-of-climate-change-mitigation-in-the-UK.pdf
6 BEIS (2022) Sub-Regional Fuel Poverty data 2022. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/sub-regional-fuel-poverty-data-2022
7 Evidence presented to the Devon Climate Assembly (2021) by Kate Royston of Tamar Energy Community and Dan Lash of the Centre for Energy and Environment, University of Exeter. Available at https://www.devonclimateemergency.org.uk/retrofit/
8 Climate Change Committee (2019) UK housing: Fit for the future. Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/uk-housing-fit-for-the-future/
9 Scott, K. and Ward, D. (2021) Devon Climate Assembly – “How should Devon meet the big challenges of climate change?”. Available at: https://www.devonclimateemergency.org.uk/devon-climate-assembly/devon-climate-assembly-report/
10 Tomusk, K. (2019) MEES one year on: no enforcement proceedings in first 12 months, EGI. Available at: https://www.egi.co.uk/news/mees-one-year-on-no-enforcement-proceedings-in-first-12-months/
11 MHCLG (2021) The Future Homes Standard, 2019 Consultation on changes to Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and Part F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations for new dwellings. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/Government/consultations/the-future-homes-standard-changes-to-part-l-and-part-f-of-the-building-regulations-for-new-dwellings
12 MHCLG (2021) The Future Buildings Standard, Consultation on changes to Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and Part F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations for non-domestic buildings and dwellings; and overheating in new residential buildings. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/Government/consultations/the-future-buildings-standard
13 Plymouth Energy Community (2020) About PEC Homes. Available at: https://plymouthenergycommunity.com/about/about-pec-homes