After a tough year battling the COVID-19 pandemic and getting our heads around Brexit: Deal or No Deal, issues that were top of the construction industry’s agenda in previous years have been pushed to the back of the queue. Now, with light at the end of the tunnel in terms of getting back to ‘normal’, we can pivot back to these concerns.
Energy efficiency will be high on the agenda for 2021. This year, the Prime Minister announced the plans to ‘Build Back Greener’. £160 million is to be made available for port and infrastructure upgrades and to increase offshore wind capacity, creating 2,000 construction jobs and supporting 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly through manufacturing, ports and their supply chains. Johnson wants the UK to be at the forefront of the ‘green industrial revolution’ to speed up our progress to net zero emissions by 2050.
It won’t be long until all the electricity on our national grid is from renewable energy as the cost of the technology required has fallen.
Climate repair is a global issue. With a change of leadership in the US there is expectation of a global drive to get the targets we set ourselves back on track. China has targeted 2060 for net zero compared to the 2050 on home shores, but several commentators feel they will achieve targets ahead of the UK.
Buildings are a significant concern. Major improvements are needed for net zero in the UK to ever be realised. From the point of view of our UK glazing industry, the importance of energy efficiency in what we do isn’t disputed but we often fail to look ahead at the bigger picture and how we fit. Our sector has the potential to make a massive contribution to the Government’s targets but currently we are stuck in how to approach it.
Our lack of collective impact at policy level has meant that when Government announces schemes and investment to push towards their energy targets, we are left in the position of having to go through significant ‘red-tape’ transition without an idea on our eventual success due to not being part of creating the solution.
The Green Homes Grant, and its PAS2030 requirement, shows a real disconnection as our industry let businesses with huge commercial interests advise on the standard, who then determined that a qualified heavily processed industry is the way forward. Indeed, PAS2030 seems to be more of a major contractor charter to keep the smaller installers away or controlled only as subcontractors.
Given the requirements, glazing has taken the collective short-term view of, ‘we’ve got plenty of work already’. The question normally asked is: ‘why didn’t they ask us first?’. But it’s our responsibility to put ourselves in a position where we are contributing value, so that we are first in line when they need the view from industry.
We have no choice but to embrace energy efficiency funding. No matter who is in Government, they have to make sizeable investments into green energy and net zero emissions targets. If we carry on the way we are with the destruction of the planet, it’s going to have a massive impact on the global economy.
It’s about looking at the bigger picture. The plans for renewable energy, and the upscaling of programmes to remove existing carbon in the atmosphere, needs to be combined with an increased focus on making buildings as energy efficient as possible. The glazing industry needs to be a part of that, or we will continue down the current path where measures under grant schemes involving window replacement will go to green installation firms and not glazing specialists.
We don’t want to end up in a position like the gas boiler sector, where there isn’t a place for them in future Government energy plans. We need to part of the solution for Government. If nothing else, this year has proven that the right investment from Government, as seen with COVID19, can change people’s behaviours. We collectively need to ensure that our current glazing industry plays a role in making sure that building standards meet the requirements for net zero targets, or another way will be found.