Building works

Applying energy-saving technologies to buildings would bring the biggest single reduction in the CO2 emissions of major cities, according to a major new study


Applying energy-saving technologies to buildings would bring the biggest single reduction in the CO2 emissions of major cities, while slashing hundreds of millions of pounds from energy bills, according to a major new study focusing on London.

A research project carried out for engineering giant Siemens suggests that transforming the energy efficiency of domestic and commercial premises dramatically outstrips higher profile technologies such as wind power in terms of the benefits versus costs involved.

Measures such as insulation, energy-efficient lighting and boilers, and sophisticated building automation systems could between them reduce London’s emissions by one third by 2025 according to consultant McKinsey, which compiled the report.

At the same time as they are cutting greenhouse gases, the energy saving measures would more than pay for themselves by delivering significant cost reductions. The study claims energy-efficient lighting alone would cut around £135m a year from the UK capital’s energy bill by 2025.

Unveiling the findings, McKinsey director Jeremy Oppenheim said the figures show how relatively straightforward measures can put ‘fashionable but expensive’ technologies in the shade — at least when applied to major conurbations.

‘Our numbers suggest that various forms of solar, for example, are very expensive,’ said Oppenheim. ‘Many of the most cost-effective measures are technologies we know about. There’s no need to invent a trip to Mars.’

Despite labelling the environmental and cost benefits on offer a ‘no brainer’, the study warns that take-up of the technologies is often fraught with difficulties.

It highlights the lack of clear information to consumers about the choices available and how they can go about implementing them. Retro-fitting energy-efficient systems to old buildings is a particular challenge for major cities such as London, which also has a large rented sector in which the person expected to make the investment, the landlord, will not initially be the one to benefit from lower fuel bills.

Oppenheim said the 75,000 homes renovated each year in London should be a particular target. ‘Over the next 18 years we have the chance to upgrade 50 per cent of London households to the highest standards of energy efficiency.’

Andrew Lee