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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2007, 01:30 GMT
Homes 'can cut CO2 by up to 80%'
Energy efficient light bulb (Image: BBC)

Carbon dioxide emissions from UK homes could be cut by up to 80% by 2050, according to a low carbon strategy produced by Oxford University.

Financial incentives for home owners and tighter energy efficiency standards were among the study's recommendations.

The measures would enable households to reduce their energy bills by 425 each year, the report's author suggested.

The UK government is introducing legislation that will require CO2 to be cut by 60% from 1990 levels by 2050.

"This report is in support of the Climate Change Bill," explained report author Brenda Boardman, a senior research fellow at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute.

"The bill calls for at least a 60% reduction, which is great, but this report shows that you can get an 80% cut in the domestic sector by 2050."

Dr Boardman said reducing emissions from energy use in people's homes was "absolutely crucial" if the government was going to achieve the soon-to-be legally binding target.

"It is crucial because it is large. Depending on what year's measurements you use, it accounts for about 25-27% of all the UK's carbon emissions."

The report's blueprint for future low carbon homes includes:

  • Legally binding emission targets - housing sector obliged to cut emissions by 3.8% each year from 2008
  • New homes - built in urban areas to increase the density of dwellings, cut car use and encourage take-up of micro generation systems
  • Financial support - "robust programme" of tax incentives, including Stamp Duty rebates for insulated homes, and reduced VAT on energy efficient goods
  • Fuel poverty - develop a database of energy efficiency for every home, and target funding at those in greatest need of support

"The technologies are already there," Dr Boardman told BBC News. "People know about cavity wall insulation, double glazing and more efficient boilers and lighting.

"We are trying to give a framework to government policy so everybody will realise this is important and what we have to do in our homes to help with climate change mitigation."

One technology that could deliver sizeable saving is micro combined heat and power (CHP). A separate study by the Carbon Trust found that larger homes and small commercial enterprises could cut carbon emissions by up to 20%.

Micro CHP systems generate both heat and electricity locally, and reduce costs and emissions by offsetting energy needs that otherwise would have been drawn from national electricity and gas distribution grids.

Mark Williamson, director of innovations for the Carbon Trust, said: "Our analysis of more than 30,000 days worth of data shows that micro CHP can deliver significant CO2 savings for small businesses and certain types of housing.

"However, if the market for this exciting technology is to develop, it needs a policy framework which provides appropriate incentives to target applications which offer worthwhile carbon savings."

'Zero carbon'

In September, the government announced that intended to make every new home built in England "zero carbon" from 2016.

Renewable energy: Small is beautiful

In its policy statement, the Department for Communities and Local Government defined zero carbon as "over a year, net carbon emissions from all energy use in the home would be zero".

It was a move that Dr Boardman supported: "It may be the case that we could do it sooner because the Welsh Assembly are planning to do it by 2011."

But she added that 80% of homes people would inhabit in 2050 had already been built, yet ministers had failed to set out clear policies to improve energy efficiency in these properties.

"What (this report) has done is built a lot of policy around the Energy Performance Certificates that the government is introducing for people selling their house."

Dr Boardman said the certificates should also be required by people who want to carry out improvements, such as converting a loft or building an extension.

"You would find out how efficient or inefficient your house is, and the certificate would come with a list of potential activities to improve your property.

"We are trying to get people to realise that the energy labelling of houses is just as important as energy labelling of fridges has been."

Dr Boardman's report, Home Truths, was commissioned by the Co-operative Bank and environmental group Friends of the Earth as part of their Big Ask campaign.

Graphic showing how to save energy in homes (Image: BBC)
1. Loft insulation
2. Super efficient LED lights
3. Micro CHP system
4. Household waste collected to feed CHP system
5. Ground source heat pump
6. Cut bills by about 425 a year
7. Double glazing and shutters
8. Solar thermal panels to provide hot water



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