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UK trails Asian powers on retrofitting

The UK is lagging behind India and China when it comes to retrofitting commercial buildings with energy efficiency measures, according to a report.

While the UK fared well in comparison with the US and the rest of Europe in the annual Energy Efficiency Indicator from sustainable building products supplier Johnson Controls, the emerging Asian superpowers are setting the standard.

The report is based on a global survey of more than 2,800 executives and managers responsible for making investments and managing energy in commercial buildings.

It found that 68 per cent of UK commercial firms were expecting to make energy efficiency improvements over the next year.

This put the country ahead of Germany (49 per cent), the US and Canada (52 per cent) and the rest of Europe (62 per cent).

But India and China were way out in front with 87 and 90 per cent of respondents respectively expecting to carry out energy efficiency work in the next year.

Energy prices are a huge driver for the emerging economies.

Respondents from the two nations were the most afraid that energy prices would rise, with 88 per cent of those from China expressing concerns and 79 per cent of those from India. This compared with 68 per cent in Europe, and 64 per cent in North America.

The UK construction industry has been urged to lead the country’s sustainability drive.

Construction minister Ian Lucas earlier this year urged the industry to form a “cohesive response” to Paul Morrell’s report on low carbon.

Mr Lucas praised the chief construction adviser’s interim report as “a very important focal point for establishing the government agenda”.

He added: “It would be a great measure of success to get a single wishlist from the industry.”

Mr Morrell has put the creation of a 40-year plan for a low-carbon construction industry at the heart of his role. He has called for a huge programme of work to reform the industry’s structure, export products and skills, and excite a future generation of potential recruits.

Clay Nesler, Johnson Controls vice-president for global energy and sustainability, said it was good to see China and India taking sustainability so seriously as they both had large and fast building programmes.

He said: “Despite the recession, decision-makers have put efficiency high on their agendas for 2010, especially those in India and China.
“It’s encouraging to see that the financial returns and environmental benefits of energy efficiency investments are recognised in all regions around the world.”

Mr Nesler said the report highlighted some positive areas for the UK.

“One of the areas that reflects strongly is that 23 per cent of respondents in the UK consider energy management to be important. That compares with 16 per cent in the US, 15 per cent in Germany and 14 per cent across the rest of Europe.

“Through policies like the Carbon Reduction Commitment the UK has been a strong leader in developing legislation for reducing greenhouse gas.”

After cost savings, cutting greenhouse gas emissions was the second most important motivator for energy efficiency in all regions except North America, where boosting public image and taking advantage of government/utility incentives ranked higher.

“In contrast to other regions, existing legislation was one of the top three factors in Europe,” said Mr Nesler.

“We believe this is indicative of the region’s leadership in energy and climate legislation, compared with other parts of the world where the prospect for binding legislation remains uncertain.”

Solar renewable technologies topped the global wanted list for commercial energy efficiency improvements.

Clients in the UK and Germany were the most likely to explore geothermal technologies, while India and China were the most likely to pursue wind power.

Over the past year, 21 per cent of UK respondents had installed renewable energy systems, compared with 8 per cent in the US and Canada, 24 per cent across Europe, 25 per cent in Germany, 50 per cent in India and 52 per cent in China.