Why is this important?
Energy efficiency is a measure of the amount of energy used to do things like provide heat and hot water, which is the largest use of energy in houses. Improving energy efficiency means getting more from the energy that is used. Low carbon or zero carbon homes are designed and constructed to release very little or no carbon at all during their lifetimes, and are therefore very energy efficient.
65 - 70 per cent of the housing stock that will be in existence in the 2050s is likely to have been built before 2000
Improving the quality of our housing will also enable Wales to meet its international and domestic obligations to reduce emissions.
In undertaking the inquiry, the Committee considered the following:-
- What role can housing can play in Wales’ low carbon transition, including the potential positive impacts on greenhouse gas emissions?;
- The development and availability of technology needed for highly energy efficient housing;
- What changes are needed to ensure that existing housing stock is as energy efficient as it can be?
- Whether it is possible and feasible to deliver low carbon, energy positive, affordable housing at scale in Wales and, if so, how this can be achieved;
- What are the barriers to delivering transformative change in house building in Wales?
- What is the role of Ofgem and the national grid in enabling grid evolution to accommodate new types of housing, and what are the challenges presented by decentralised energy supply?
- Whether Wales has the requisite skills to facilitate and enable change in the housing sector;
- What changes are needed to Building Regulations in Wales to accelerate progress towards ‘near zero’ energy standards and beyond?
- How communities can be planned and shaped to be more energy efficient and low carbon (including examples of good practice in Wales and further afield).
The Committee's report demands an ambitious vision from the Welsh Government. The scale and pace of delivering highly energy efficient homes needs to be urgently increased, or it will fail to meet the challenges it faces.
What we heard
The importance of low carbon and zero carbon homes
There are many reasons why we should improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock. The most pressing is the need to deliver on legal obligations to eliminate fuel poverty and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
A ten year route map towards zero carbon housing
The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government must prepare and publish a ten year low carbon housing strategy. The strategy must include milestones and targets and must deliver, within its lifetime:
- The retrofit of all houses in fuel poverty in Wales to zero carbon in operation standards;
- All new build houses in Wales to be built to zero carbon in operation standards;
- A complimentary planning and building system with low carbon and energy efficiency at their centres, and supported by rigorous, independent inspection regimes;
- Financial incentives to encourage buyers and owners to buy low carbon housing and invest in retrofit measures;
- Funding interventions that maximise the impact of Welsh Government investment in low carbon housing; and
- A fully trained workforce, ready to construct and improve homes using the latest technologies.
What we heard
Bringing existing homes up to zero carbon standards
The problems of poor energy efficiency in homes in Wales is most acute in our existing housing stock. Wales has more older, colder homes than in the rest of the UK which makes them more expensive to heat.
The Welsh Government has made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050, but 80% of the houses we will be living in then have already been built. New housing accounts for only 6% of our housing stock.
"The factors that most concern clients that we deal with when renting or buying a home is very simple - location, price, size and general condition. With regard to environmentally friendly properties, it's certainly a criteria that certain people would look for, but in terms of detail of going beyond a question of an energy 'C' rating or cost to run - unless it's extremely high it doesn't really have much of an affect for people we deal with." - Jon Hooper-Nash, Lettings Manager, Cardiff
The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should undertake and publish within the next 12 months a comprehensive cost and benefit analysis of retrofitting to zero carbon in operation all households that are in fuel poverty.
The Welsh Government should continue to invest in and expand the current retrofitting schemes under Arbed 3. The Advisory Group on the Decarbonisation of Existing Homes should report to the Committee on the feasibility of retrofitting homes under this scheme by "type" of dwelling.
The Advisory Group on the Decarbonisation of Existing Homes should report to the Committee on how it plans to encourage the "able to pay" and low income homeowners to retrofit energy efficiency measures.
What we heard
A robust supply chain and a skilled workforce to install the new technology are crucial to delivering the zero carbon housing Wales needs. The view of the majority of participants to the inquiry was that there is a lack of appropriate skills in Wales to deliver low carbon housing at scale.
“I think Wales has a lot to do in terms of the skills capacity as does the rest of the industries. It's not just a Wales specific issue. There's a huge education that we need to do across all sectors around skills capacity, how we build the new engineers of the future and what that means, and there's a lot of initiatives out there already to look at that but it is a huge issue." Gill Kelleher, Policy and Engagement Manager, SPECIFIC
Training and skills
The Committee recommended that training and skills should be central to the Welsh Government's long-term low carbon housing strategy. The Welsh Government must ensure there is sufficient investment in training provision and appropriate equipment needed to undertake the training.
The Welsh Government should report to the Committee within 12 months on the measures being put in place to ensure the construction sector has the appropriately skilled workforce to deliver its targets for energy efficient homes.
The Welsh Government should report to the Committee within 12 months with an assessment of the impact of Brexit on skills and labour supply in the construction sector.