The Industry responds to the Clean Growth Strategy

The Government’s Clean Growth Strategy published on Thursday, October 12, produced a mixed reaction from the construction industry. Below are four responses from the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), WWF, Solar Trade Association (STA) and the Ecology Building Society.

The UKGBC viewed the Strategy positively, saying: “The Clean Growth Strategy is a very positive signal that the Government understands the significant opportunities for the UK that moving to a low-carbon economy can bring. They have listened to the industry by providing a clearer longer-term trajectory for improving the energy efficiency standards of existing homes and adopted our own aspiration for upgrading as many of these as possible to EPC Band C by 2035. What businesses need to see now is the Government living up to this rhetoric with strong policies which turn the aspirations into reality.”

The Ecology Building Society gave a positive response to the Clean Growth Strategy saying it is satisfying action points that the Society had already incorporated into its own policies. Paul Ellis, chief executive of the Ecology Building Society, said: “It is positive that the Government recognises the challenges we face in moving to a low-carbon future and its intention to move this forward at a time of uncertainty for the UK with the expected exit from the EU.

“Improving the energy efficiency of our existing housing stock will be critical to help meet our carbon targets and the challenge now is to move beyond statements of ambition and aspiration to practical policies that will deliver.

“We’ve been calling for incentives for homeowners to invest in energy efficiency improvements such as stamp duty relief and support for green finance for more than ten years. We already incorporate energy efficiency into our lending decisions and, as an existing provider of green mortgages for renovation and retrofit, we are ready to play our part in ensuring this package of proposals has real impact.”

The WWF’s response was unimpressed, implying that much of it was just smoke and mirrors. Gareth Redmond-King, head of energy and climate at WWF, said: “The strategy’s ambition is to be welcomed, however the details fall short of what we need to lead the UK to a green and prosperous future. The news on improving homes is a victory for owners, renters and landlords, and more money for off-shore wind – the cheapest form of generation – is great news. But overall the UK Government admits that it will miss most of its targets.

“They are not delivering the emissions reductions needed in the next decade, relying instead on past success to offset missed targets with the rapid power decarbonisation that we’ve seen to date; this risks passing on a worse situation to the next generation. The UK Government has much more work to do in putting forward credible policies to close a carbon gap of nearly 10% by 2032.”

The Solar Trade Association (STA) was also left feeling uninspired by the Strategy, saying it had limited opportunities for solar power, despite solar’s status as the UK’s most popular energy source, and as one of the cheapest, with what it calls the largest future world market. Chris Hewett, STA policy manager, said: “It does seem extraordinary that when a technology as vital to the world’s future as solar is asking, not for any new public support, but simply for a level playing field with other technologies that the Government is not moving to respond. This technology will dominate global power supply in years to come so in the interests of UK plc, the Government needs to stop putting the UK solar industry at a competitive disadvantage.

“The British solar industry is being artificially held back by the Government and that doesn’t help consumers, innovation or local leadership. We will be looking to the Autumn Statement for the measures we need urgently to level the playing field for solar power.”

Jonathan Selwyn, STA chair, said: “Solar power is transforming global energy systems. Until this year, the UK was at the vanguard of this movement. It is therefore beggar’s belief that the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy almost totally ignores solar power – the most popular and cost-effective means of driving the UK’s energy transformation. We call on the Government to shake off its blinkers and provide a level playing field for all energy technologies to ensure the solar industry, consumers, local people and the environment get a fair deal. This will enable solar to take its rightful place at the heart of clean growth.”