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The missing part of the Future Homes Standard: Energy Storage

Blog by Solar Energy UK member GivEnergy.

By now, you’ve likely heard about the Future Homes Standard becoming mandatory in 2025. The initiative sets out minimum energy efficiency requirements for all new homes built in England – with a view to improving both the economy and sustainability of home energy usage.

Unfortunately, the Future Homes Standard has a glaring omission. While factors such as insulation, air tightness, and low-carbon heating systems are (quite rightly) addressed – the directive fails to consider the pivotal role of energy storage.

This oversight comes to the detriment of both the billpayer and the UK’s net-zero emissions target. By missing energy storage, the Future Homes Standard is missing a key opportunity to make further efficiency gains.

What is the Future Homes Standard?

The Future Homes Standard (FHS) is a government directive that seeks to decarbonise new homes. As part of its bid to improve home energy efficiency, the initiative also reduces energy bills for the homeowner – helping ease the country’s mounting fuel poverty concerns.

The FHS primarily focuses on three key areas:

· Improving heating

· Improving hot water systems

· Reducing heat waste

So, it includes rules on building fabrics, insulation levels, triple glazing standards, ventilation rates, and low-carbon heating. (Heat pumps or solar thermal systems, for instance.) The FHS also seeks to mitigate overheating, stating that any potential overheating issues should be identified at the design and pre-construction stage.

Combined, then, these rules ensure that no new home built under the Future Homes Standard will be reliant on fossil fuels. This heightened efficiency is undoubtedly a great step – and one that we welcome. Yet the fact remains that it is a step too small.

To meet its ambitious emissions reduction targets, the government must stop overlooking battery storage. As an absolute minimum, it needs to integrate adequate energy storage provisions into the Future Homes Standard.

The role of energy storage

Battery storage technology has advanced significantly in recent years. It now represents a key component of any low-carbon energy system. Simply, without a storage battery, even so-called “efficient” homes will inevitably end up wasting energy.

It’s a little-known fact that, without storage, much of the energy generated by renewables goes to waste. Indeed, some two-thirds of the world’s energy is wasted between generation and usage.

Plus, this concept of waste aside, a lack of storage means that homes can only use any renewable energy intermittently – as and when weather conditions are favourable.

This, then, is when home storage batteries become essential. Batteries allow households to store excess electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, enabling them to use this energy when it is needed. (And not just when the sun is shining, or the wind is blowing.) Firstly, having this excess energy stored for later use drastically cuts energy bills. From an environmental perspective, however, it also eases demand on the grid – thereby reducing carbon emissions.

Plus, even without renewables in place, a home storage battery still plays an essential role in clean energy management. Modern batteries – like those manufactured by GivEnergy – are designed to work strategically with smart energy tariffs. So, this means that they will charge intelligently using off-peak rates – storing energy only when it’s super cheap and green to do so. Then, in turn, they will discharge when energy costs are high. The home can run on battery power, instead of drawing from the grid when it’s at its costliest and dirtiest.

You would be right in thinking that all of the above makes energy storage a no-brainer inclusion in the Future Homes Standard. So, why is there no mention of home storage batteries in the government directive?

A continued lack of attention

For all the gains made over the past five years, energy storage still remains neglected at government level. The Future Homes Standard is a continuation of a pattern – not an exception to the rule.

For example, the British Energy Security Strategy furthers support for new nuclear, offshore wind, and heat pumps. Yet the deliverance of a complementary energy storage strategy is nowhere to be found.

More recently, following on from the Treasury’s reduction in VAT on renewables to 0%, the government is now reviewing whether to extend this VAT rule to include battery storage systems. However, even should this extension go ahead, it looks likely that it won’t apply to new installations or to standalone home batteries installed without renewables. Once again, then, a key opportunity to strategically embed energy storage into sustainable homes is somewhat short-sighted.

Perhaps more worrying is data from Cornwall Insight. Their research suggests that the government must invest £20bn in battery storage by 2030 to meet its renewables goals – which is almost a fifth of the government’s total investment in energy technologies.

As you can see then, energy storage is a broadly (and woefully) overlooked component in supporting the UK’s clean energy transition – of which the Future Homes Standard is just one part.

Powering change

Battery storage technology plays a significant role in reducing home carbon emissions. So, a forward-thinking government should update the Future Homes Standard to reflect this plain truth.

With energy storage capacity in the home, intermittent renewable energy becomes easier to harness and use consistently. Even without renewables, a home battery still allows homes to run on clean, off-peak battery power. Either way, then, the result of energy storage is that households can reduce their reliance on peak grid electricity – which is often generated from fossil fuel sources. In turn, households boast less waste, lower costs, and greener and more efficient energy usage.

To accelerate the transition to a low-carbon energy system, the UK government must stop overlooking home storage batteries. What better place to begin than the Future Homes Standard?

About the author

Jason Howlett is CEO at GivEnergy – the company empowering energy freedom for all. GivEnergy is the largest British-owned manufacturer of residential and commercial battery storage systems. As well as batteries, the company’s range also includes inverters, EV chargers, energy management software, and a host of supporting accessories. Together, these products create an ecosystem for customers to control their energy end-to-end.