Government may claim to be putting the environment somewhere near the top of its agenda, but the reality is different, according to the Environmental Industries Commission. In a letter to Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, the EIC says that in most cases, public sector building projects procure the cheapest and most polluting option; contain virtually no specific energy efficiency requirements in tender documents and in the vast majority, are awarded to the lowest bidder.

EIC director Merlin Hyman wrote that members of the Combined Heat and Power Association believe the “lacklustre performance of PFI is affecting the take up of CHP and delivery of government CHP target, especially in NHS”.

Hyman says these experiences are in line with the findings on the performance of central government identified in the Sustainable Development Commission’s report ‘Leading by Example? Not exactly’ which concluded that over half of government departments have failed to increase the energy efficiency of their buildings and are way off meeting the target of a 15% increase in energy efficiency by 2010-11. Hyman concluded that urgent action was needed to avoid government squandering the opportunity and undermining its own stated aim to make the UK one of the EU leaders in sustainable procurement by 2009.

“We urge the Commission in its watchdog role to inquire into the actual energy efficiency performance achieved by new schools, hospitals etc. and to push the government to set clear mandatory standards which all future projects must comply with,” he stated.