Meanwhile the Government is faced with the problem of the fuel-poor, mostly occupying the 12 million sub-standard energy-guzzling houses in England and Wales. In the short term the Chancellor had no alternative but to reduce VAT on domestic fuel to alleviate fuel poverty. However, the money that is now being allocated to housing should be targeted at refurbishing poor-quality homes to an energy efficiency standard of SAP 60 (government Standard Assessment Procedure). To put this into perspective, new homes have to achieve around SAP 75 whist most of the sub-standard homes will be SAP 10-20. Houses that cannot be raised to this standard should be replaced with new-build.
In due course the EU will impose a carbon tax which will not only dampen demand for fossil-based energy, but also improve the cost-effectiveness of energy-efficient buildings and renewable energy. The first call on the proceeds of the tax should be to ensure that fuel poverty is consigned to history.
Professor PETER F SMITH
Chairman, Royal Institute of British Architects Environment and Planning Committee