Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions[9]



  1.  This Memorandum sets out the Department's position on the issues raised by the Committee Specialist in his letter of 27 March 2002 to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, David Jamieson MP.

  2.  DTLR plays an important role in the promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Department's wide-ranging responsibilities enable action to be taken in a number of different areas, including transport, building regulations, housing and planning.

  What responsibilities does the department have for helping the Government achieve its targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and for monitoring progress in these areas?

  What scope is there to promote major improvements in energy efficiency, in terms of both urban design and individual building standards? What practical steps is the department taking in these areas in response to the recommendations in the PIU report?


  3.  Energy efficiency in transport is important to the Government's sustainable energy objectives. It is also a key element in its objectives for moving to a low-carbon transport system, since there are major opportunities for further improving vehicle fuel efficiency, which will both cut vehicles' energy use, and cut carbon and other emissions. Achieving these transport objectives involves action by four key Departments in particular—DTLR, DTI, DEFRA and the Treasury. The four Departments last year jointly developed and issued a consultation draft of the Government's "Powering Future Vehicles" strategy for facilitating the shift to low-carbon vehicles and fuels (available at The close joint working will continue as the strategy is carried through, and the Government is setting up a permanent joint Ministerial Group on Low-carbon Vehicles and Fuels, also involving the Devolved Administrations, to oversee the implementation, reporting annually to Parliament.

  4.  Vehicle energy efficiency is already improving. The EU Voluntary Agreement with car manufacturers is on course for its objective of 25 per cent improvement in energy use and CO2 emissions compared to 1995 levels by 2008. Other agreements cover Japanese and Asian vehicles.

  The EU plan to review the Voluntary Agreement in 2004. The Government will be fully involved.

  5.  Other technical developments offering major efficiency improvements include hybrid (internal combustion—electric) technology. Two hybrid petrol vehicles are on sale in the UK, one of which has a fuel consumption of 69 miles per gallon on the standard urban cycle. More advanced hybrids look capable in due course of giving a 50 per cent or more reduction in fuel use compared to current conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.

  6.  The Government has put in place a range of measures to encourage the take-up of more energy efficient vehicles. In 2001, it introduced Graduated Vehicle Excise Duty for new cars, linked to CO2 emissions and therefore energy efficiency. It has extended this further in the 2002 Budget with a new £30 lower VED band for cars with a CO2 emission of 120gm/km and below, starting in May 2002. VED will then range from £60 to £160 a year (plus zero VED for electric cars). Company Car Tax is also now linked to CO2 emissions. Budget 2002 also introduced 100 per cent Enhanced Capital Allowances for companies purchasing cars and vans with 120gm/km and less CO2 emissions.

  7.  There are also £1,000 grants through the Transport Action Programme, for motorists purchasing hybrid cars.

  8.  Government is also supporting the development of hybrid vehicles through the Foresight Vehicle and New Vehicle Technology Fund—including hybrid buses and diesel hybrid taxi vehicles, which have particular air quality benefits for congested areas. Looking further ahead, the Government is also supporting the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which offer further improvements in fuel efficiency, together with local environmental benefits of zero tailpipe emissions.

  9.  Aviation has seen a steady and marked improvement in fuel efficiency in recent decades. Fuel consumption per passenger mile is now about 70 per cent lower than it was 40 years ago. Market pressures combined with further technological and operational developments will continue this trend. However, as current aviation technology approaches optimality, the rate of improvement can be expected to diminish. The prospects for alternative fuels are being investigated but, with the possible exception of hydrogen, no promising alternatives have so far been identified.

Building Regulations

  10.  The Department is responsible for ensuring that the energy efficiency provisions in the Building Regulations for England and Wales continue to make the best contribution they can towards achieving the Government's carbon dioxide emission reduction targets. We recognise that that contribution has to be balanced with Better Regulation policy, the maintenance of sufficient flexibility for designers, and the avoidance of unacceptable risks of technical defects such as rain penetration and condensation. But we have made significant progress in this area over the last few years.

  11.  A review of The Building Regulations' energy efficiency provisions was commissioned in February 1998, three years after the previous significant improvements came into effect. Consultations on firm proposals and a draft Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) were conducted with the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, the construction industry and its clients, building occupiers and energy stakeholders in the summer of 2000. The proposals included significant improvements in building fabric standards, new requirements for air conditioned buildings, new requirements for checking "As-Built" and "As -Installed" performance, and administrative changes that would apply the requirements for the first time to replacement windows and refurbishment of energy consuming services. The draft RIA estimated that the proposals would yield about 1.3 Mtonnes pa of carbon savings in 2010.

  12.   As a result of the consultation, revisions of the energy efficiency provisions of the Building Regulations and of the Approved Documents, which give ways in which the requirements of the Regulations may be met, were published in October 2001. The amendments came into effect on 1 April 2002. The final RIA estimate of the contribution to the Climate Change Programme from these amendments was a saving of 1.37 million tonnes pa in 2010.

  13.  The summer 2000 consultation document contained a paper reporting the Department's thinking about three further stages of amendments up to 2008, the sorts of measures that might be added to those already controlled, and the performance standards that it might be appropriate to set, depending on further consultations and regulatory impact analysis. An update of this paper is to be placed on the Department's website shortly.

  14.  It is normal practice for the Department to survey building practice two or three years after amendments are made as a check on successful implementation. A similar survey is planned in the financial year 2004-05 to examine how the changes that came into force on 1 April 2002 are working. The results will be used to inform the development of proposals for the amendment that are envisaged for around 2008.

  15.  PIU Review recommendations include:

    —  34: DTLR should review the costs and benefits of moving to "near zero space heating" buildings well in advance of the next review of the energy efficiency component of Building Regulations (7.25), and

    —  38: DTLR should develop Building Regulations to deliver a phased transition to low energy commercial buildings, including consideration of the use of renewable energy such as photovoltaics (7.37).

  16.  The Government will be consulting on the PIU Energy Review in preparation for the publication of a White Paper later this year. As part of this work the Government will be considering what practical steps the department should take to promote improvements in energy efficiency in response to the recommendations in the PIU report. However, regarding recommendation 34, in response to a Parliamentary Question on what research has been commissioned and evaluated in this area, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Dr Alan Whitehead MP, replied:

        "My Department has not commissioned specific research on moving to near-zero space heating buildings. Work on the next review of Part L [of the Building Regulations] is in progress and the aim continues to be to see what further contribution can be made to achieving carbon dioxide emission targets whilst keeping the Building Regulations proportionate, cost-effective, reasonably flexible for designers and unlikely to cause construction defects. Once the proposals have been developed an evaluation of the benefits and the costs, including the environmental costs, of further reducing the energy consumption of new and existing buildings will be carried out, but it is unlikely that the results will indicate national regulatory requirements should demand near-zero space heating. However the regulatory requirements do not, and will not, prevent builders from adopting better performance criteria, including near-zero space heating if it suits particular circumstances."

    (10 April 2002 Official Report, column 77W)


  17.  The Department is committed to ensuring that all social housing in England is decent by 2010. This includes ensuring homes provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort through effective insulation and efficient heating.

  18.  The English House Condition Survey (EHCS) will be used to monitor national progress towards meeting the decent home target. Social landlords are also required to set local targets for eliminating non-decent housing and will report on their progress regularly.

  19.  The standard is seen as a minimum and recent guidance issued by the Department encourages social landlords to maximise the energy efficiency of their stock, over and above the requirements of the decent home standard, where possible. The guidance is available at

  20.  Latest available EHCS data shows that in 1996, 47 per cent of the social housing stock was non-decent, the majority of which failed to provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort. Figures for 2001 will be available later this year.


  21.  The planning system has a vital part to play in promoting more sustainable land use patterns and use of resources. Good design can help promote sustainable development, and we are committed to design excellence. Urban design is not just about making places visually attractive, but it is crucial to how places function, to maintaining and enhancing the vitality and viability to town centres, to regenerating rundown areas and to creating safe communities where people feel secure.

  22.  Against that background, DTLR published in September 2001 "Better places to live", a good practice guide which aims to improve the quality of residential design. The guide includes advice on improving energy efficiency through, for example, solar orientation of houses. A copy can be found at

  In what way do current planning processes impede the development of renewable energy sources? Will the current review of planning and of PPG 22 contain any specific measures to help promote renewables more positively? If so, what?

  Is the department involved in the development of regional targets for renewable energy? What view does it take on how such targets should relate to the role of RDAs, regional bodies and local authorities? Where should primary responsibility for achieving such targets be located?

  23.  The Government's national planning policy in England on renewable energy is set out in Planning Policy Guidance note (PPG) 22: Renewable Energy. This gives local planning authorities guidance on a range of issues that affect the siting of all renewable energy projects. PPG22 is available at

  24.  The planning system has an important role to play in helping to deliver the Government's target of securing 10 per cent of UK electricity supplies from renewables by 2010. The then DETR and DTI thus jointly initiated in 2000 a more positive strategic approach to planning for renewable energy by asking the Government Offices for the Regions in England (GOs) to oversee the preparation of regional assessments of renewable energy capacity and the setting of targets. These were intended to feed into the Regional Sustainable Development Frameworks, Regional Planning Guidance and Regional Development Agency (RDA) Strategies. A similar exercise was undertaken by the Devolved Administrations (DAs).

  25.  The process of preparing the regional assessments was a highly participative one, involving a range of key regional stakeholders (including the RDAs). The exercise is now largely complete and regions have produced reports and recommendations. DTLR and DTI commissioned an independent overview of the studies. The report by Oxera Environmental and Arup Economics was published on 6 February 2002 and can be found at—report.pdf.

  It concludes that the national 10 per cent target is challenging but achievable.

  26.  DTLR and DTI are anxious to maintain the interest and momentum created by the regional work to promote and maintain a positive planning climate at regional and local levels. The Prime Minister announced in November 2001 that £2.5 million would be made available to support planning facilitation for renewables. In consultation with DTLR, DTI is leading on allocation of this money to GOs and DAs to support a range of actions over the next two years to take forward the outcomes of the regional assessments and to raise awareness of renewables.

  27.  A key objective of the facilitation exercise is to bring about greater public familiarity with, and acceptance of, prospective renewable energy developments. Changing public attitudes to renewable energy has an important part to play in helping to smooth the passage of individual development proposals. The inclusive approach to preparing the regional assessments should also help here. It is also essential that developers prepare the ground by involving local authorities and local communities in discussions about proposals at the earliest possible stage. The importance of pre-application discussions by developers is strongly underlined in the Planning Green Paper published in December 2001.

  28.  The proposals for a fundamental reform of the planning system set out in the Planning Green Paper are designed to deliver a faster, fairer, more inclusive system, with speedier and more predictable decisions. This package of measures should benefit all forms of development, including renewable energy. The Government is currently analysing responses to the consultation exercise with a view to issuing a policy statement on how it proposes to proceed before the Summer Recess.

  29.  In the meantime, DTLR is now reviewing PPG 22, with a view to issuing draft revised guidance for consultation later in the year. This will underline the key role which planning has to play to support achievement of renewable energy targets. Ahead of this wider revision, DTLR has already updated the PPG 22 technical guidance on photovoltaics. This was published on 10 April 2002 and a copy can be found at

1 May 2002

9   The Committee asked a number of questions to the Department and these are shown in italics. Back

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