Time spent reading the Hansard reports of House of Lords’ Question Time is seldom wasted.
The former Gateshead MP, Joyce (now Baroness) Quin has been tirelessly asking the Housing Department whether the introduction of solar panels would be made mandatory for all new homes in England. Just before the election was called, she finally received a formal answer from the minister, Lord Younger of Leckie.
It was accompanied by an announcement that the (now former) government had launched a consultation on, “options for a meaningful and achievable increase to the energy efficiency standards for new homes to be introduced through the Building Regulations in 2020.”
M’Lord Younger continued that, “We expect this would be achieved by homes being built with high fabric standards alongside the use of low-carbon heating, such as a heat-pump, or renewables technology such as solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.”
Cause for celebrations in Gateshead and beyond? Not quite. Because the minister went on to say that whilst, ”the Building Regulations set minimum energy performance standards for new homes and non-domestic buildings, they do not prescribe the technologies, materials or fuels to be used, allowing builders the flexibility to innovate and select the most practical and cost-effective solutions in particular circumstances.
“For example, many roofs are not suitable for solar PV panels because of visual amenity, age, strength, or orientation of the property. It would therefore be implausible for Government to enforce a blanket requirement to deploy solar PV panels on every new home,” Lord Younger concluded.
Hang on. At the start of his response, His Noble Lordship had stressed that these new standards were exclusively for “new” homes. So why on earth would his caveats about PV not being appropriate owing to either the “age” or indeed the “strength” of a new roof be even vaguely pertinent? Anybody would think that the Housing Department wanted to give cowboy builders every excuse to omit to build photovoltaics into each and every new home. Inevitably these sweepingly dangerous caveats went unchallenged by those in their Lordships’ House still awake at the time.