Net Zero Carbon Viability and Toolkit Study

The ‘Net Zero Carbon Viability and Toolkit Study’ was commissioned by the Essex Climate Action Commission (ECAC) to help support the delivery of the new build targets set out in the ECAC ‘Net zero: Making Essex Carbon Neutral’ report (2021), the main target is for:

  • New homes and all new commercial buildings granted planning permissions to be net zero carbon by 2025 and carbon positive by 2030

The core aim of the Study is to assess the cost and viability of achieving net zero carbon development; with options for doing so identified and evaluated against a series of economic, social, and environmental criteria, including the capital costs for developers.

The research undertaken for the study included a literature review and interviews with local authority planning officers and representatives of the local development industry and a high-level review of the impact on scheme viability of different carbon reduction targets.

The Study reports are available below: 

The key messages from the Study are that:

  • It is viable in most areas of Essex to build new homes to exemplary energy efficiency standards which are based on the world renowned Passivhaus building standard. 
  • Building to these standards means that the energy demand for heating a building (known as space heating) is reduced by more than 70% - and consequently energy bills are reduced significantly. 
  • The standards also align with the Government’s advisors, the Climate Change Committee, recommendation of a space heating standard of 15-20 Kwh per square metre per year to be achieved for all new buildings. 
  • Key performance indicators should be set in planning policy which limit space heating demand, and also total energy consumption in buildings. (This means that developers will need to install the most efficient appliances and low carbon heating systems in new homes.)
  • The recommended ‘fabric first’ approach (based on Passivhaus ‘classic’ standards) provides a good basis for achieving net zero carbon homes and keeps us on track with national and local climate targets. 
  • The cost difference between building to the Government’s proposed Future Homes Standard 2025 (which do not align with climate targets) and building to a Passivhaus ‘classic’ standard with a level of Solar PV that meets Building Regulations (2021) requirements is marginal at between £2,000-£3,000 per dwelling. 
  • The emerging local plan policies currently going through public examination elsewhere are kept under review and assessed for Essex. 
  • These policies go a step further and require developments to achieve a net zero operational energy balance on site. This is where on-site renewables – such as rooftop solar pv - generate the same amount of energy (or more) as the development uses on average over the course of a year. This includes energy consumed for the operation of the building (both in terms of ‘regulated’ energy such as energy used for space heating, lighting, hot water and ventilation, and ‘unregulated’ energy such as energy used by ‘plug-in’ equipment and appliances), but does not include energy used for electric vehicle charging.  
  • Modelling has shown that achieving ‘on-site operational energy balance’ is technically feasible and viable in other parts of England - and so this approach will be explored further in Essex.

If you have any queries on the Study, please email

Page updated: 20/10/2022

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