Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the Construction Products Association


  The construction products industry is at the heart of the UK economy, providing essential materials for our homes, schools, hospitals, factories, offices, roads and railways contributing 4 per cent to the UK GDP and employing over 400,000 people. It is also an energy-intensive industry. Any policy emerging from the Review would subsequently have an impact both on the manufacturing process and the product design.

  Industry is aware of its environmental obligations, and has made significant moves towards sustainable development. This is evident in the development of sector sustainability strategies and in the use of energy-efficient technologies and processes for the manufacture of products. Of course, these are not limited to manufacturing industries. There are a number of product innovations within the built environment, such as thermally efficient blocks, condensing boilers, which when utilised reduce energy consumption.

  The development of environmental profiles and environmental information on construction products provides information that goes beyond the "factory gate". Since energy consumption during the operational/in-use phase of a building is significantly higher than its embodied energy, it is important to consider the whole life performance of products and its impact at the end of life.

  Industry recognises the Government's commitment to reduce emissions and meet its Kyoto and national targets. The policies introduced by government to meet these commitments however have had an adverse affect on industry's competitiveness, especially where businesses are operating in an increasing global market. The climate change levy, introduced in April 2001, has raised energy costs by an average 7 per cent per annum totalling £80 million for the construction products industry, which has already seen significant increases in energy prices over the last few years. In addition, manufacturers who produce energy saving products, but do not fall within the IPPC criteria, are having to pay the full levy, which adversely affects prices of energy saving products.

  Before setting policies, government needs to take account not only of international competitiveness, but also national initiatives already in place by business to mitigate their environmental impact. In doing so, it must ensure that the policies emerging from the Review provide a level playing field in the diversity, reliability and security of energy supply.

  In particular government needs to:


  We consider that the following areas are of particular importance:

    —  Competitive energy supply market nationally and globally.

    —  Reliable and secure energy supply.

    —  Diverse energy sources, particularly renewables, and incentives for its use.

    —  No further imposition of unnecessary regulatory/fiscal burdens.


  Renewable resources are increasingly becoming an alternative source of energy in industry. In particular, the cement industry has reclaimed energy from packaging waste, waste tyres, etc. On a European scale, other Member States have been able to take full advantage of reclaiming energy from waste sources and even bone meal. However, there is a restriction in use in the UK through strict legislative requirements and through inconsistent interpretations of waste by the regulating bodies. Based on sound science and experience from other Member States, these barriers can be overcome.


  The climate change negotiated agreements are estimated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2.5 million tonnes of carbon per annum by 2010, and a successful emissions trading scheme, to be launched in April 2002, will reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 2 million tonnes of carbon per annum by 2010. Add to this the development of energy-efficient technologies and products, and the carbon emissions can be significantly reduced to help UK Government meet its Kyoto and national obligations.

  The use of energy-efficient products can also optimise energy consumption effectively in both the domestic and commercial sectors. The Review states that energy efficiency investments can reduce energy demand by 30 per cent in the economy as a whole, equivalent to a potential annual saving worth £12 billion, and in the long-term forms part of an agenda for an efficient, innovative and sustainable energy system. The Association, in its response to government's Fuel Poverty consultation, recommended, among other issues, the reduction in VAT on repairs and maintenance, and on all energy-efficient products/processes. These incentives would significantly reduce the national energy consumption.

  Government can also ensure energy-efficiency in existing buildings. Through the reintroduction of the "Homes Bill", vendors would be responsible for ensuring the energy use in a home meets the efficiency requirements and this would be an increasingly important distinguishing factor in future home purchase.


  The industry is meeting strict requirements of energy efficiency through the national Building Regulations as well as meeting European directives, such as the Construction Products Directive. There are a number of projects currently ongoing that aim to reduce energy use throughout the life of a building, eg Beddington Zero Energy Development homes. It is the first "carbon-neutral" housing project, which boasts low energy consumption, renewable and recycled materials among others, to provide 60 per cent reduction in conventional energy and 90 per cent reduction in heat demand. Government, in its own procurement policy, should adopt the best practices highlighted in these case studies and implement an energy efficient strategy that contributes to sustainable construction.

  There is great potential for industry to contribute to an effective energy-efficient strategy. The Association awaits consultation on the Government's White Paper on Energy Policy and is keen to work closely with them to develop strategies where energy-use can be reduced through innovation and development of energy-efficient products. This will be linked with initiatives already in place, such as the Carbon Trust, Energy Saving Trust, and Enhanced Capital Allowance Schemes. This needs a strong backing from government through incentives and policy harmonisation.

  We see the proposed Sustainable Energy Policy Unit as a key role in ensuring that there is genuine co-ordinated thinking among government issues that has not always been apparent in the past.

March 2002

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