Stories from across the energy transition

The Journey Ahead: Navigating Beyond the Obvious (Part 6 of 6)


Our initial renovation journey is drawing to a close after 18 months of disruption but also 18 months of learning and my two daughters loved the opportunity to see and understand the changes happening. The insights gathered throughout the process have made it abundantly clear that the obvious steps we’ve taken only account for a part of the overall environmental impact of our lifestyle. Moreover, the process itself carries its own carbon footprint due to the consumption of resources and energy. Lastly, it’s evident that there are systemic hurdles to the realisation of a truly efficient home that merit addressing. We were delighted to attain an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of A with a score of 100 in July 2023. However, even in our celebration, we were made aware of further improvements to reach a higher score, which would involve tackling some of the more challenging areas of insulation.

The Carbon Cost of Renovation:

Ironically, the journey to create an energy-efficient home incurred a carbon debt. The use of concrete, steel, bricks, plastic insulation, timber, and other materials made the renovation inherently carbon-intensive. A rudimentary calculation suggests our build contributed over 10 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions – a reminder of the embedded carbon cost in home renovations. This debt can be repaid over a period of roughly 5 years based on a similar house remaining in it’s pre-renovated state.

Further Avenues for Impact:

To further reduce our environmental impact, we’ve identified several opportunities. These include introducing rainwater harvesting and incorporating soakaways to alleviate the demand for treated water, thereby enhancing water resource efficiency and reducing strain on energy-intensive water treatment processes. Moreover, we aim to foster biodiversity and store carbon through extensive planting, enhancing our garden’s overall ecosystem. As we journey through the winter months, we anticipate unearthing additional methods for maintaining a low-impact household. Thermal curtains and blinds will also be a component of improving our energy use, keeping cool in summer and warm in winter.

Challenges and Potential Solutions:

Our energy efficiency project will persist in the coming months and years. However, through this process, we’ve encountered and identified key barriers to wider adoption of efficient homes. These include:

  1. Knowledge and Skill Gap: Prior to launching our project, we found that the energy efficiency knowledge of most architects and tradespeople we engaged with was far from adequate. While niche specialists do exist, this area is far from mainstream, leading to a longer process requiring extensive research on all parties.
  2. Heat Pump Installation: We faced numerous obstacles when seeking a qualified heat pump installer, with most suggesting we opt for a new gas boiler instead. This reflects a broader shortage of skilled professionals in this area.
  3. EPC Assessment Challenges: Our EPC auditor encountered difficulties using the IT system for various areas, including rating a home with a gas meter but no connected gas appliances, and accommodating a solar PV system spread across three roofs facing different directions.
  4. Smart Metering Hiccups: Despite having a smart meter installed by our electricity provider, we’ve been asked to submit manual readings for electricity exports due to the inability of the provider to utilise smart meter readings for this purpose.
  5. Financing Efficiency Projects: While some banks offer financial support for sustainability projects, such resources are limited. More robust financial backing could potentially catalyse the adoption of energy-efficient projects by considering the positive impact on clients’ ability to pay.
  6. Smart Home Technology: Though various technology options exist for creating a “smart home,” device integration remains elusive. An effective home energy management system that could optimise energy use across a network of devices is yet to be found.

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that while individual energy-saving measures might seem insignificant, their aggregate effect can have a substantial impact on the energy system as a whole. As we continue our journey, we remain committed to uncovering new ways of enhancing our home’s energy efficiency and reducing its environmental impact.

LINK: There are challenges as well as innovative solutions and we are constantly working on and researching the Energy Transition across this space. New challenges and innovative solutions in Europe’s energy transition | Articles CRA (

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