Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Merton revisited

As we relayed a few months ago, the government was reportedly planning to drop a mandate that all new buildings should include some renewable energy capacity.

The so-called Merton rule, introduced by the eponymous London borough in 2003, requires any new building to reduce its carbon emissions by 10%. It had been taken up by around 150 other local authorities with encouragement from Whitehall, but this support was thought to be likely to disappear from the upcoming draft planning policy statement after pressure from the construction lobby.

Well, the relevant department (Communities & Local Government) has now released a special supplement to the planning policy statement, Planning and Climate Change.

While there's no explicit reference to the Merton Rule (though there is in the accompanying press release), the document recommends that local planning authorities should expect a proportion of the energy supply of new development to be secured from decentralised and renewable or low-carbon energy sources. And while no targets (or even target targets) are given, planning authorities are advised to set out a target percentage of the energy to be used in new development to come from decentralised and renewable or low-carbon energy sources where it is viable.

So not as bad as expected, perhaps, but it still all seems a little wafty - subsidiarity issues aside, an actual requirement would be of more use than a recommendation. It's not the news that businesses developing, supplying and installing alternative energy systems might have hoped for, but it's better than nowt.

In other news, the Carbon Trust and the Energy Technologies Institute have announced a new £40m initiative to speed the development and deployment of offshire wind power around the UK. The two quangos are also seeking further private sector sponsorship for the scheme, which is expected to lead to a small number of large R&D projects.

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