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2023 in review: what happened to the energy industry?

December 22, 2023

Sustainability and building compliance expert. Specialising in low energy design, SAP, SBEM, BREEAM, and air testing for the construction industry,

Andrew Sadler

We look back at the core themes, challenges and opportunities that have influenced the energy sector in the past year.

Every year, we like to take a look back at what’s happened within the world of sustainable energy – the shake ups, the plateaus and everything in between. And this year has certainly been a big one. 2023 has seen the country continue to take steps towards cleaner energy (and our Net Zero commitment to Build Back Greener by 2050), as well as some exciting new initiatives and a (hefty!) sprinkle of backpedalling on certain green policies. We’ve also welcomed more stability following the energy crisis of 2022; although write this knowing that many are still picking up the pieces.

The Greener Futures Partnerships launched a new retrofit programme worth £1.48 billion.

Here we share some of the highlights, with a particular focus on energy usage within the built environment. 

The Greener Futures Partnerships gave us a fantastic start to the year in the form of a new retrofit framework worth £1.48bn. The ultimate aim of the programme is to decarbonise housing stock through a series of work initiatives, including the installation of solar panels and heat pumps, insulation and roofing.

Greener Futures Partnerships is a consortium of five registered housing providers – AbriAnchorHome GroupHyde and Sanctuary – who are working in collaboration to deliver the sustainable retrofit of homes. The retrofit programme, which will run for a minimum of three years, includes a range of innovative, forward-thinking approaches based upon bespoke commercial models, allowing various options to call off works. There are multiple regional lots and a range of value bandings to encourage small, medium and large constructors and consultants to join the framework.

It was an incredibly positive way to step into 2023, and we look forward to seeing the ripple effects over the next few years.

BREEAM released their new standards updates.

Back in May, BRE launched a public consultation, highlighting changes to its widely-used sustainability assessment method. BREEAM V7 – which is set for release in early 2024 – will feature these new elements, enabling building owners and developers to make informed decisions in order to meet environmental targets.

Under the proposed updates, buildings that are designed to use less energy during peak periods will be incentivised. The V7 update addresses the industry’s need to account for embodied carbon in performance assessments through an updated methodology calculating carbon emissions, helping building owners and developers make informed decisions about any materials and products they use to meet environmental targets. 

Ultimately, V7 will be a valuable tool for investors and building owners, allowing them to assess the climate risk of a building and set benchmarks for their carbon emissions for working towards net zero. It’s been very exciting to learn more about the updates, and here at Buildpass we’re already layering them into our advice and consultations. Watch this space for a full lowdown once V7 hits the shelves next year.

Energy usage dropped but businesses still aren’t aware how energy efficient their buildings are.

Energy Trend reports in 2023 provided some positive insights into UK energy usage throughout quarter 2 – in fact, total energy production was 11% lower than the same period last year, with drops in all primary fuels except solar: this was a near record low. In addition, total primary energy consumption for energy uses fell by 5% and renewable electricity generation capacity grew by 6%, with offshore wind growing by 9% and solar growing at 8%: the highest rate of quarter-on-quarter growth since the second quarter of 2017. 

These stats offer an optimistic vision for the future: however, a key survey this year also found that less than a third of UK businesses knew how energy efficient their building was.

The survey – by Irwin Mitchell – found that many UK businesses have a lack of understanding around energy efficiency of office buildings. As the UK government begins to get stricter on their journey to sustainability and net zero, these findings are worrying, highlighting to all of us how important it is that local businesses better awareness of their energy efficiency. 

Of equal concern, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) also found this year (in its sixth progress update to the CO2nstruct Zero Performance Framework (CZPF), that while some progress has been made, the industry remains on track for less than half of its net-zero goals.

Despite these challenges, at Buildpass we feel optimistic about the progress towards net-zero, especially in the measurement of operational and embodied carbon. (Read more about operational vs embodied carbon in this blog.It’s expected that, by 2024, building-type benchmarks for all asset classes will be launched, providing a more structured approach to reducing emissions. It’s something we will be keeping a very close eye on.

The industry received significant investments.

Of course, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The energy industry also received some substantial and sustainable investments; ones that will make an enormous difference to the green agenda. One of the investments that we found the most exciting (and promising!) was Nottingham Trent University’s £1.5m investment into a new Centre for Sustainable Construction and Retrofit at their University.

The innovative new centre – which launched in November – focuses on developing skills, research, training and consultancy to support the UK’s construction sector to reach net zero. Underpinning this fantastic centre is the mission to explore solutions and skills that will enable both local and national movement on the transition to net zero within the built environment sector. 

We really recommend digging deep into this incredible venture for Nottingham Trent; the Buildpass team would love to see this replicated across the country.

Rishi Sunak backtracked on key green policies.

In the latter part of the year, Rishi Sunak announced that the Conservative government would be rolling back on some of their key green policies as part of a major policy shift. A think-tank report noted that this has put the UK in ‘reverse gear’ in the global race for environmental stability.

This watering-down of the UK’s net zero policies was presented as a way to save the people of the UK money and to stop the ‘risk (of) losing the consent of the British people and  the resulting backlash against specific policies and the wider mission itself.’

We believe, however, that this is incredibly concerning for – as Sunak described – the wider mission itself. As the country gears up for another General Election, it will be interesting to see how the opposition presents themselves with regards tackling the green agenda. 

Buildpass placed a HUGE priority on delivering CPDs.

We wanted to end by talking about a shift for everyone here at Buildpass. While we have continued to be a consultancy for building better spaces to live and work, we have also – this year – spent a lot of time developing and delivering CPD courses. Our most popular topic for CPDs has, without a doubt, been building to Net Zero.

Clients we have supported this year with their CPD and training include architects and construction companies. We have delivered sessions as part of the RIBA core curriculum categories of ‘sustainable architecture’ and ‘design construction and technology’. However, the range really is huge, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer: which is why we love it!

It’s something we’re incredibly passionate about and proud of – we can’t wait to expand our CPD reach and toolbox throughout 2024.

Work with Buildpass in 2024.

Starting to look ahead to 2024? We’d love to be a part of it.

Get in touch to speak to a member of our team about how we can support you on your journey to sustainable construction, cleaner energy usage and enhanced building performance.

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