Zero Carbon Compendium


'The UK's renewable energy goals are directed by the Renewable Energy Strategy 2009. The strategy has set a legally-binding target of increasing the renewable energy contribution to 15% by 2020'

Key Facts

Country Population:67.2 m
Capital Population:8.6 m
Area:241, 590 km²
Density:257 people/km²

National Carbon Overview

Under the UK Climate Change Act, the government has set a target for reducing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 based on 1990 levels. The process of achieving this target is especially challenging for the UK, owing to the wide range of age and condition of the UK housing stock. The 1965 building regulations introduced the first limits on the amount of energy wasted due to building fabric losses, expressed as a U-value.

Over 27% of the UK's CO2 emissions come from the residential sector. 82% of the energy used in households is for space or water heating. Less than a third of all housing stock in Great Britain had central heating in 1970. As of 2007, this number had risen to 93%.

The UK's renewable energy goals are directed by the Renewable Energy Strategy 2009. The strategy has set a legally-binding target of increasing the UK's renewable energy contribution to 15% by 2020. As of 2009-2010, renewable energy contributes 6.6% to the total primary energy supply, but only 1.3% of the residential fuel mix.[1]

The UK has been a pioneer in many aspects of energy policy and has been used as a model by other countries following its path. It was the first country to announce a legally binding target to reduce emissions, under the Climate Change Act 2008, and was also one of the first countries to develop a certificates obligation programme for renewable energy.


Exemplar Project

Graylingwell Park
Chichester, England

Graylingwell Park. Graylingwell Park.

Graylingwell is located on an 85 acre former hospital site less than a mile from Chichester city centre and is the UK's largest carbon neutral development. Building is underway and once completed, the site will include 750 new and converted homes, 300 of which will be affordable, as well as a number of other community amenities. There are a number of different architectural styles, all of which compliment the design of surrounding Chichester. The development has already won a number of awards, and has achieved Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 certification for new residential developments and a BREEAM Excellent rating.

Heating for the development is provided by the central heating and power plant on the site, while all appliances are energy efficient and are fitted with low-flow sinks, showers and toilets. As a result, they use a third less energy than comparable homes.

Many of the new homes have PV roof panels installed, as well as high levels of insulation. There are also mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery systems installed.[5]

Policy and Targets

The UK is committed to reducing its GHG emissions by 12.5% from 2008-2012 as part of the Kyoto Protocol. The Climate Change Act, published in 2008, originally set the target of reducing emissions by 60% by 2050, and in 2008, this target was increased to 80%.

The Energy Act of 2008 contains the legislative provisions required to implement UK energy policy, the key elements including carbon capture and storage, renewables, and smart meters.

The Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) requires electricity and gas suppliers to achieve targets for demand reduction in households between 2008 and 2012, via upgrades to insulation, low-energy light bulbs, high efficiency appliances and boilers. The target is expected to cut CO2 emissions by 293 million tonnes.

Existing Frameworks

In 2006, building regulations and the associated limits on energy loss in England and Wales were significantly tightened as a result of the 2003 Energy White Paper. The 2006 regulations introduced the calculation for the Dwelling Carbon Dioxide Emission Rate (DER), calculated using the government's Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) for Energy Rating of Dwellings.

The Code for Sustainable Homes[2] (2006) is a standard developed from the BRE Ecohomes system, and was introduced to drive a step-change in sustainable home building practice. It awards a rating from 1 to 6, based on nine sustainability criteria. A Code Level 3 house represents a 25% improvement (approximately 25% CO2 emissions reduction from the 2006 Building Regulations Standards) and a Code Level 5 home represents a 100% improvement. The Code for Sustainable Homes now allows credits for the adoption of the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard developed by the Zero Carbon Hub. As of May 2008, a Code Level 3 rating has been required, as a minimum, for all new social housing.

Support, Incentives and Grants

The UK government funds schemes providing up to £2,700 to households on certain benefits to improve their heating and energy efficiency. These schemes are called Warm Front (England), Warm Homes (Northern Ireland), Warm Deal (Scotland) and the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (Wales).[3] There are also feed-in tariffs (FITs) available for small-scale low carbon electricity produced from a variety of renewable energy technologies installed by householders, businesses and communities. Introduced in 2010, electricity suppliers pay producers for their energy, even if it is not fed into the grid.

The government's Green Deal 'pay-as-you-save' scheme is under development and expected to begin in 2012. Green Deal customers will receive an independent assessment of their home's energy efficiency and improvements will be carried out by government approved installers. Under the scheme, customers pay no upfront costs, and installers recoup costs through fixed charges on consumer energy bills.



  1. Department of Energy and Climate Change. (2010). Fuel Mix Disclosure Data Table.
  2. Department for Communities and Local Government. (2006).Code for Sustainable Homes: A step-change in sustainable home building practice.
  3. Energy Savings Trust. (2008). Energy saving grants and offers.
  4. Department of Energy and Climate Change. (2011). Green Deal.
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