The Renewable Energy Centre comments on the Merton Rule

The Renewable Energy Centre commented today on the Government's rumoured abandonment of the 'Merton Rule', which requires a percentage of energy in new homes to be provided by renewable sources.

Named after the area of Greater London that it originated from, the Merton Rule was launched in 2003 and sets out that a percentage of the energy used in new build homes must come from on-site renewables sources such as wind turbines or solar panels. Since its introduction around twenty local authorities have implemented the rule and over one hundred and fifty local authorities are in the process of adopting it.

Until recently the Department for Communities and Local Government had approved of the Merton Rule and Housing and Planning Minister Yvette Cooper had planned for it to be implemented nationwide. However, the Guardian recently reported leaked information suggesting that continued pressure from the Property Developers and House Builders industry may have had a negative effect on the policy.

It is thought that Cooper may now remove the requirement to implement the rule from the final version of the Planning Policy Statement, due to be released at the end of the year. Many renewable organisations and Local Authorities are outraged by the news and believe that it will threaten the adoption of many renewable technologies throughout the UK.

Amongst the supporters for the Merton Rule is The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which commented that it saw 'green' construction as a challenge builders and developers must face up to.

RIBA President Jack Pringle commented "Individual local authorities can play a huge role in driving innovation and can themselves become beacons of sustainability. If the reports are true and this ability will be lost, that will be detrimental to the government's goal
of reducing carbon emissions from buildings."

However, those opposed to the Merton Rule as it currently stands, feel that the rule is inflexible and will be unrealistic in terms of the commercial availability of on site technology. The British Property Federation (BPF) commented that developers must focus on real solutions, and not simply on achieving unrealistic targets. But the renewable industry representatives argue that the 'Merton rule' has been far more useful to them than any previous national government initiative which have often been confusing and lacking in financial backing.

Liz Pearce, Chief Executive of the BPF, said: "The property industry is fully behind wide ranging measures to green up our buildings, but people need to think beyond the headlines and look at the full context if we are to find a solution to this problem that is both workable and cost effective."

Many organisations including House Builders Federation (HBF) have lobbied for a national strategy introduced in phases over ten years, as opposed to that implementation on a local level which could lead to confusion and an increase in costs.

Richard Simmons, founder of The Renewable Energy Centre responded "The Merton Rule has proven to be a great success with every Local Authority that has implemented it. Although it would be unfortunate if the speculation about its removal from the bill turns out to be correct, it is as important to remember what we are all aiming to achieve. It is vital that we produce a new generation of homes that can eventually rely on renewable sources of power, but it is also essential that we educate people on energy efficiency and create buildings that allow this by investing in products such as condensing boilers, double glazing and loft and cavity wall insulation. Without addressing both issues we have no hope of solving the problem in the long term"

There is no official denial or confirmation from the government, but a spokesperson stressed that the government remained "absolutely committed" to delivering significant reductions in carbon over the next ten years and for all new homes to be carbon zero by 2016.

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