According to Wikipedia “A low-energy house is characterized by an energy-efficient design and technical features which enable it to provide high living standards and comfort with low energy consumption and carbon emissions.”
It is understood that buildings alone account for almost 40% of all human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world, 20% of which come from residential property, basically our homes. As reported by the Intergovernmental Planet on Climate Change (IPCC) buildings is the sector which presents the most cost-effective opportunities for GHG reductions.
Scotland is part of the worldwide low-carbon movement therefore low-carbon houses could help us not only to meet future energy needs but also have a positive impact on addressing climate change issues. There are driving forces for rapid improvements:
- GHG emissions are NOT falling at the rate required to meet targets. The Scottish Government has a target to reach net zero emissions by 2045 with an interim target of a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030.
- Domestic energy use contributes to about 30% of the UK’s total energy budget and 20% of UK’s GHG emissions, representing a key area for decarbonisation according to The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
- E3G, an independent climate change think tank which operates to accelerate the global transition to a low carbon economy, claims a large percentage of preventable winter deaths are attributed to living in a cold home.
Scottish Ministers have announced that new regulations will be developed to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, with all new homes in Scotland using renewable or low carbon heating from 2024. Running alongside this is a £30m investment in renewable heat projects.
Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, commented “It’s becoming increasingly clear that the pace of decarbonising Scotland’s domestic and non-domestic buildings has to increase significantly to achieve those aims, and emissions from our buildings will have to fall close to zero”.
“We will ensure that new homes and buildings across Scotland meet the challenge of the climate emergency, combining the action we need to take on climate change with our ambition to provide affordable warm homes.”
Of course, although low-carbon houses may be more easily achieved in new-builds it is thought that by 2045 80% of the homes we will be living in will have already been built so retrofitting existing stock will also require to be done such as installing insulation, cladding and solar panels and bringing everyday appliances up to a higher energy efficient standard.
Meeting the objective of low-carbon houses becoming ‘energy neutral’ and potentially generating more energy than we consume, a path is being created to mitigate climate change, achieve long term sustainable goals and improve our living standards at the same time. Who could argue with that?