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Securing a low carbon-built environment

There are three key steps that we need to take to secure our low-carbon future: securing the investment we need for energy generation; tackling high energy costs for consumers and business; and championing of sustainable design within the construction industry.

The UK will need to attract £110bn of private sector investment into our electricity infrastructure in the coming few years to keep the lights on and diversify our power mix.

The newly-published Energy Act is an important step towards delivering this private capital and, together with a robust carbon price at EU level, should provide a strong signal to investors.

But there’s more the UK could be doing, such as looking to extend capital allowances to cover structure and buildings in order to support private investment in energy and infrastructure

We also need to take urgent actions to address high energy costs for consumers and business. With average household energy bills now topping £1,200 a year, consumers are feeling the pain – particularly when their budgets are already squeezed.

The Green Deal is an important scheme for consumers but it is poorly promoted and too complex. Most consumers are unaware of the benefits, and those that understand it are put off by its complexity. But the goals of the scheme are the right ones, and we must take a more fundamental look at how to present energy efficiency as an easy win for consumers. 

Businesses are also struggling with energy costs, particularly those that are energy intensive. This country relies on these industries to provide the materials and products we need to for low-sustainable construction, directly employing around 225,000 people and many more in the supply chain.

This is why the CBI’s budget submission calls on the chancellor to reduce energy costs for businesses by freezing the Carbon Price Floor, extending the EII compensation package and calling for a longer term look at the cumulative energy costs, such as the renewables exemption.

Finally, we must continue to champion the UK as a world leader in sustainable design.

We know that the sector punches above its weight on the global stage, unparalleled in low-carbon design and digital innovation. Our exploitation of BIM technology, to pick one example, can help us reduce emissions in the built environment and demonstrate the value of green construction.

Construction leaders need to inspire people working in construction to embrace this potential. There are substantial opportunities to export this expertise overseas, with growth in global green construction forecast to be 23 per cent a year between 2012 and 2017.

In the search for sustainable growth, we need politicians to keep an eye on the size of the prize, set the right frameworks and trust industry to deliver. In turn, we need industry to step up to the plate, commit to the goals of Construction 2025 and take advantage of the growth opportunities in the pipeline.

Katja Hall is chief policy director at the CBI.

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