Experts welcome plan to clarify 'allowable solutions' for achieving zero carbon goals

Out-Law News | 25 Mar 2013 | 5:02 pm | 1 min. read

The Government's plan to detail how builders can meet their 'zero carbon' goals through 'allowable solutions' will help clear up the uncertainty that currently exists in the industry, an expert has said.

In last week's Budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced (112-page / 3.32MB PDF) that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is to consult on "the means of delivering allowable solutions" as part of the next stage in setting out new energy efficiency requirements in building regulations.

The DCLG will, by May, publish a "detailed plan" that sets out the Government's response to a consultation it staged on the reforms last year and will include proposals on 'allowable solutions' which will be opened to consultation before the Parliament breaks for summer recess, Osborne said.

The Government has set out a strategy for requiring newly built homes to be 'zero carbon' from 2016. New non-residential buildings will have to be 'zero carbon' by 2019. However, the Government has indicated that house builders will be able to meet their 'zero carbon' targets even if their site continues to produce emissions. The Government's 'allowable solutions' concept would enable developers to pay into a fund to help deliver carbon-saving projects on other sites in order to qualify for a less stringent emissions target for their on-site work.

However, the Government has yet to specify precisely how the mechanism for 'allowable solutions' will work in practice. Environmental law expert Linda Fletcher of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that this has caused uncertainty in the industry but welcomed the Government's new timetable for action.

"The uncertainty over the definition of zero carbon and the use of allowable solutions mechanism to deliver that target has caused difficulties to developers and local planning authorities alike," Fletcher said. "It is very encouraging to see that the DCLG will publish its plan on amendments to the Building Regulations to deliver zero carbon for new homes by 2016 and that at last the mechanics of allowable solutions is to be consulted upon which will be key to delivering this zero carbon target."

"Local planning authorities will need to consider their local plans and the promotion of energy from renewable and low carbon sources within those and how allowable solutions can be used to deliver the zero carbon target," she said.

"Allowable solutions could see a significant source of funds to drive the delivery of district heating and other forms of low carbon delivery," added energy law expert Simon Hobday of Pinsent Masons. "We will need to see what the consultation proposes but it is promising to see Government progressing the concept of allowable solutions."