Brexit finally happens

At last, after interminable delays, national anguish and business paralysis, Brexit took place.

Of course, as many analysts have advised, it is now that the truly interesting work and the real impacts of the historic referendum decision must begin.

Every media outlet is trying to predict the future for business; a nigh on impossible task. The BBC notes that the UK will be able to start talking to countries around the world about setting new rules for buying and selling goods and services.

There’s also a lot to be discussed with the EU, it writes. Agreeing a UK/EU trade deal is a top priority, so extra charges on goods and other trade barriers aren’t needed when the transition ends.

Within all this, it is essential that low carbon advocates make their voices heard. Now is an opportunity to place low carbon and energy efficiency firmly at the centre of how a new UK trades and redefines its global positioning.

“It is essential that we make every effort to ensure trade policy is aligned to offer the very best for UK low carbon products and services,” comments Kevin Cox, managing director, Energys Group.

“Regardless of where you stand on the Brexit debate, now is the time to move forwards and seek new opportunities for the climate positive technologies that can mitigate climate damage, and build a robust and powerful UK economy.”

Wasteful energy management

A shocking story from EDIE reveals that UK businesses are wasting energy to the tune of £60m in unnecessary energy bills, according to a new Green Alliance report.

Wasted energy from the City of London’s offices alone is equivalent to the amount used to power more than 65,000 homes and is costing businesses in the city £35m a year. The Green Alliance has revealed that this generates carbon emissions equivalent to 46,000 cars annually.

Energy waste across less than 3,300 offices in Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and Birmingham could power more than 42,000 homes, and is costing businesses £25m annually in avoidable energy bills.

Responding to the report, JLL UK’s head of sustainability Sophie Walker said its findings were, “Very welcome,” but that energy waste across the built environment sector has been, “Recognised as a major issue for some time.”

She said: “What this report does is again emphasise the easy cost savings still to be achieved from focussing on energy efficiency. It’s environmental realpolitik and will help drive forward net-zero carbon commitments.”

The Green Alliance’s senior policy analyst Caterina Brandmayr said: “We all work for or know businesses that waste energy, whether it’s leaving lights on at night or wasting heat. It’s hard to see why dealing with this problem isn’t yet a priority, for companies in terms of cost savings or for the government in reaching its carbon targets.”

ECAs scheme for tax relief on energy efficient plant ending in April

Lists of energy efficient and environmentally beneficial technologies and products which are eligible for first-year allowances also known as Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA) are to be updated, and the measure will also end the first year allowance for products on the ETL and WTL, including the associated first year tax credit, from April 2020 onwards.

The first year allowance schemes currently allow 100% of the cost of an investment in qualifying plant and machinery to be written off against the taxable income of the period in which the investment is made, improving cash flow for businesses.

The Government’s logic is to update criteria for 2019 to 2020 to reflect developments in eligible technologies.

Building reg changes

The Guardian warns that proposed changes to building regulations in England are likely to make buildings less energy efficient not more.

It writes: ‘In a damning assessment of proposals to reform Part L of the Building Regulations, which sets the minimum energy performance standards for new dwellings, a growing coalition of professionals has described the changes as “a step backwards, in a climate where we need a huge leap forward”.’

“The proposals are framed as an improvement, but they actually represent a reduction in the energy performance standards of buildings,” says Clara Bagenal George, a building services engineer at Elementa Consulting and founder of the London Energy Transformation Initiative (Leti).

The changes appear opaque. Alterations to the regulations, claim The Guardian, would remove something called the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard, meaning a building designed next year could be allowed to perform much worse than one built in 2013, when the current standards were introduced. Similarly, a building that would fail to meet the current regulations would pass under the new system.

“It’s a massive disappointment,” says Joe Giddings, co-founder of the Architects Climate Action Network (Acan), a campaign group formed last year to address the twin crises of climate and ecological breakdown. “From disregarding the performance of a building’s fabric to ignoring the embodied energy of materials, the proposals represent a total loosening of regulations. And it’s all hidden in a dense consultation document that seems designed to confuse.”

And finally…

A series of interviews in The Engineer has pinpointed the pivotal role of energy efficiency within the UK’s energy future.

Prof Jim Watson, director, UK Energy Research Centre, told The Engineer it will be easier to accommodate the demand of large users of electricity if they maximise investment in energy efficiency. So it isn’t just a case of shifting to low or zero carbon generation, but also a case of improving energy efficiency across the economy.

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