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Oxford leads the way in campaign to promote low-energy homes and cut fuel bills
8 September 2008
Between 11 and 14 Sept, 19 eco-homes in Oxfordshire will be open to the public with the aim of inspiring other householders to install low-energy products and systems in their homes.
The initiative is jointly organised by Oxfordshire ClimateXchange, a campaign by Oxford University Environmental Change Institute (ECI) to take climate change issues into the community, and Climate Outreach and Information Network, an Oxford-based charity set up to increase public understanding and awareness of climate change.
This is their second Open Day event. Last year’s event (see coverage) was the first in the country and since that launch, other similar versions have followed in England and Wales. The organisers hope that Eco-Homes Open Days will show other homeowners how they can install eco-friendly products in a range of different dwellings.
The homeowners themselves will show interested members of the public around their properties. The eco-homes include 17th century cottages, an Edwardian terraced home, a 1970s flat, as well as new-builds, fitted with heat pumps, solar collectors, sheep wool insulation, triple glazing, condensing boilers and a range of other water and energy saving features. Two of the new-builds have been constructed with straw bales. There is also the chance to view a narrow boat which runs on vegetable oil and solar power.
Jo Hamilton, from Oxfordshire ClimateXchange at Oxford University, said: ‘We hope that people coming to this event will be able to make the connections to enable them to think about putting eco-friendly products in their own homes. Even better, we hope that several homeowners from one area will join forces to engage installers and suppliers of eco-friendly products, as then there are even greater benefits for everyone.’
The ECI is a world leader in environmental research, particularly in research relating to carbon reduction in UK housing stock.
In July 2008, the ECI published a report, commissioned by the Federation of Master Builders, on how the building sector could work with other stakeholders, including government, to create a low carbon built environment. Among the recommendations in Building a Greener Britain - transforming Britain's housing stock, author Gavin Killip argues that the government should introduce council tax rebates to reward energy efficient homes, and cut VAT from 17.5 per cent to five per cent on housing refurbishment across the UK.
Dr Brenda Boardman is leading the vanguard with her research on energy efficiency in homes and fuel poverty. Dr Boardman, a Senior Research Fellow a the ECI and former head of the Lower Carbon Futures team and a co-director of the UK Energy Research Council, was awarded an MBE in 1998 for her work on energy issues. Dr Boardman’s major projects include the 40% House Project (published in 2005) and Home Truths (published in November 2007). In April 2008 Dr Boardman was invited to as an expert witness to the Fuel Poverty Judicial Review in April 2008. See Guardian article by John Vidal. In a legal case, brought by Friends of the Earth and Help the Aged, Dr Boardman was invited to explain to the court the key issues relating to fuel poverty in relation to the government’s obligations.
Earlier this year the ECI launched imeasure at www.imeasure.org.uk – a new online measuring tool for household energy usage. Users of imeasure are required to input weekly gas and electricity readings along with data about the household and energy types. The data is then converted into carbon and information displayed graphically to the users along with an overall carbon rating for the household. Individuals can form carbon groups to monitor their energy usage over time and compare directly with their friends. For more information about imeasure.
The 40% House Project report studies behavioural and technological changes in the search for how UK households can reduce carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. This is the target set by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. The focus of the report is on the role of households in reducing emissions through re-examining building fabric, lighting and appliances, and in-built technologies. The aim is to transform the total housing stock to the average of a 40% house with the emphasis on strong regulation and product policy.
The report Home Truths, commissioned by Friends of the Earth and the Co-operative Bank,
outlines a comprehensive policy framework at local, national and EU level, for cutting carbon emissions from new and existing homes. It suggests that householders should be offered financial incentives by the government to encourage them to cut their energy use and produce their own green energy. Incentives could include grants, low interest loans, stamp duty rebates and a reduction in VAT on energy efficiency. Another recommendation is that every home in the UK should have at least one low or zero carbon technology (LZC), such as solar panels. In return, householders should be rewarded with a guaranteed premium price for any electricity they sell back to the grid.