Improving energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective means via which carbon emissions can be reduced and has as important a role to play in helping to avoid the worst aspects of climate change as the switch to renewable energy. In addition to its benefits from a climate perspective there are also great economic dividends to be gained by reducing energy costs and increasing efficiency.
The United Kingdom has committed to reducing carbon emissions via the landmark 2008 UK Climate Change Act and as a signatory to the Paris Climate Accord. As well as promoting the use of low carbon technologies for energy generation, the UK government has also promoted energy efficiency via a range of measures. However, there are concerns about the effectiveness and political commitment to such schemes. For example, the target for all new housing in the UK built from 2016 onwards to be zero carbon has been dropped and the Green Deal program has failed to deliver meaningful increases in energy efficiency nationally. In addition to these concerns, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union has led to fears that energy efficiency may be pushed further down the political agenda with the risk of existing measures being watered down and new measures with more ambitious targets for increasing energy efficiency not being adopted. As part of the legislative programme for the UK to leave the EU a ‘Great Repeal Bill’ has been tabled which will withdraw the UK from a great deal of EU legislation. The UK will however continue to comply with EU energy efficiency standards such as the use of Energy Performance Certificates. There is also strong commitment to increase energy efficiency in the devolved assemblies and parliaments of the UK and amongst the business community. For example, the Scottish government has set a target to reduce total final energy consumption in Scotland over the period to 2020 by 12%. Large companies have also set themselves ambitious energy efficiency targets; Marks and Spencer, for example, are aiming to have 50% improved energy efficiency in their stores, offices and warehouses in the UK and Ireland by 2020, compared to 2006-7 levels. That the UK appears likely to maintain the majority of current standards is a promising development and the country is still legally bound by the Climate Change Act to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 which greater levels of energy efficiency will be crucial to achieving. There are a range of economic benefits from improving energy efficiency as well as helping reduce levels of fuel poverty and its beneficial effects of reducing carbon emissions. This combined with strong commitments from the devolved administrations of the UK in conjunction with action from the private sector means that energy efficiency is still likely to improve and stay on the agenda irrespective of the UK’s membership of the European Union. Cora Moran, writing for the Renewable Energy Institute
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