Government publishes results of 'Allowable Solutions' consultation

Out-Law News | 09 Jul 2014 | 4:49 pm | 3 min. read

The government has published the results of a consultation into proposals to allow house builders to abate carbon emissions through off-site measures where "zero-carbon" cannot be delivered on site, and outlined certain aspects of the scheme that it intends to take forward in forthcoming legislation.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) launched a consultation in August 2013 into its proposed 'Allowable Solutions' scheme. The scheme is being introduced so that house builders can achieve government targets for all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016 by using a range of off-site carbon abatement measures.

The consultation received 172 responses from local authorities and those engaged in the property, energy and manufacturing sectors and the government published the results and its response (80-page / 718 KB PDF) to the results yesterday (8 July).

In its response to the consultation, the government confirmed that four 'Allowable Solutions' routes, which will not be mutually exclusive, will be available to house builders under the final scheme. House builders will be able to choose to take carbon abatement on site; to take off-site carbon abatement action themselves; to arrange for a third party to take off-site carbon abatement action on their behalf; or to pay into a fund that will invest in carbon abatement projects.

The fund will be the only price-capped delivery route, the government said. No decision on the level of the price cap will be taken until further analysis has been undertaken, but the cap will be reviewed every three years once it has been introduced. The highest suggested price cap, of £90 per tonne of carbon dioxide was best supported in the consultation responses, but 70% of builders and developers thought that the lowest cap, of £36 per tonne was most appropriate.

The government has also confirmed that a "national design framework" will be put in place for the scheme, rather than local authorities individually making local arrangements. "This approach will provide for greater efficiency in delivery and total coverage of the country, better ensure consistency, and maximise the opportunities to use allowable solutions to support strategic carbon abatement schemes," said the response.

The government confirmed that small sites (not yet defined) will be exempt from the zero carbon homes standard, but said that it intends to "seek views on how an exemption could best work".

Respondents to the survey were strongly in favour of measures covering non-domestic as well as domestic buildings (93%) and of extending Allowable Solutions to the non-traded sector (71%). The majority of respondents (78%) felt that the market would be able to scale up to meet demand for carbon abatement and were confident that measures could be accommodated within current Building Regulations compliance processes (91%). There was also very strong support for sanctions being imposed for non delivery of expected savings (89%).

Under secretary of state for communities and local government Stephen Williams spoke about the 'Allowable Solutions' scheme at the launch of a report into the performance gap for homes by non-profit, zero carbon home organisation the Zero Carbon Hub yesterday.

The minister said that the changes will be made by way of amendments to the Infrastructure Bill which were also being tabled yesterday.  As to the detail of the scheme the government expects to consult on a detailed design model for 'Allowable Solutions' in due course.

“The publication yesterday of the government`s response and a summary of the responses to the consultation which closed almost nine months ago is encouraging as certainty is needed now to ensure the delivery of zero carbon homes from 2016," said environmental law expert Linda Fletcher of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

"As expected the government is giving the developer the choice and flexibility as to how it will deliver the abatement of the excess carbon emissions that cannot be delivered cost effectively on site, subject to complying with an overarching national framework," said Fletcher. "Sadly the detail of that is not yet available and again the government has said it will consult on the detailed design in due course – so yet more waiting and the devil is really in the detail."

"This doesn’t mean however that local schemes will not be supported but local planning authorities are likely to be concerned that they will be losing control on delivery targets within its boundaries," said Fletcher. "Developers will need to include this requirement in its financial modelling and so some might argue it is a form of development tax."

"What will be important to understand is how any solution will be measured and certified and the price cap to be set for the fund route," added Fletcher. "Certainty will be needed as to how any scheme will then be extended to new commercial buildings but as part of that the government needs to make its intentions clear as to a zero carbon target for commercial buildings from 2019 which seems to be becoming somewhat murky."