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By Hywel Lloyd, Government Engagement Manager

What do the UK’s main political parties have to say about the decarbonisation of buildings and transport?

With both the main UK party political conferences drawing to a close we have a moment in which to reflect on their respective ambitions for decarbonising transport and buildings.

What do these ambitions mean for the Active Building Centre mission to promote Active Buildings and their ability to integrate renewable energy technologies for heat, power and transport?

Electric vehicles

We can see in different ways both main parties are going big on the roll out of electric vehicles.

With the Conservatives that is through a review to explore bringing forward the existing indicative date (2040) to ban fossil fuel vehicles.

Labour now have a swathe of more detailed measures to prompt infrastructure and ensure more electric vehicles get made in the UK. More of an industrial strategy approach you might say.

However, neither explicitly tie electric vehicle roll out to the future nature of buildings.

For the Conservatives, unlike Labour, there were also key housing announcements. Not least reaffirming a version of the 2025 Future Homes Standard commitment. Although there is a tension between the desire to have locally led design guides and some approaches to the delivery of low carbon, or extended buildings.

The Labour conference also passed a green new deal motion calling for an array of action. This includes scrapping cars to promote electric vehicles and new and retrofitted zero carbon homes. This is set within a high level ambition for much faster decarbonisation by 2030.

Net Zero

While we should recognise Labour’s motion doesn’t necessarily reflect where a Labour General Election manifesto would end up it clearly adds to the pressure for a Net Zero plan with urgency.

Active Buildings clearly have a role in addressing the overarching Net Zero challenge. As well as growing British business and technology opportunities.

These speeches and conference votes show we have some work to do to help policy makers and politicians of all sides see that an integrated approach can release further benefits to home and building owners and occupants.

An integrated approach where buildings are seen as Active in the energy system rather than inactive or passive.

Active Buildings integrated approach

The existing approach of simply wiring up homes and buildings to just fit solar panels, install controls, or provide charging points, misses out on the wider benefits of the integrated approach of Active Buildings.

An integrated approach is about managing your energy. Managing your energy is not needing much to start with, capturing what you can, storing and controlling what you use and when you use it. And if you do that well, you not only power your home, but can power your vehicle as well.

An integrated approach to building design through Active Buildings is about energy control and energy storage. It’s about generating, storing and releasing energy. Balancing energy usage.

Reduction in energy costs

Even without improved energy efficiency of buildings, integrated measures should reduce running costs to the occupants.

Factoring in the current significant estimated costs of upgrading the energy infrastructure. Ofgem have predicted a cost of around £2 billion, a sum that is generally paid by energy users through charges in their gas and electricity bills.

Active Buildings could reduce these costs for the rest of us.

Active Buildings could help provide an energy revenue stream. Active Buildings could help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Active Buildings could help improve local air quality.

These societal benefits are well worth an integrated effort.

Published October 2019