This week we attended Elmhurst Energy’s Charting a Route Map for Energy Certificates conference. This was a great opportunity to discuss recent and upcoming changes to energy performance certificates (EPCs), such as the new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), which were introduced in April this year.
Professionals from various industries attended the event, to listen to six key speakers and join in with Q & A sessions.
Elmhurst’s Chairman Stephen O’Hara opened the conference, beginning with an overview of the development of the company so far, as this year marks its 25th anniversary. Congratulations to everyone at Elmhurst Energy!
O’Hara highlighted that the company provides the largest EPC accreditation scheme in the UK, with over 7,500 members. Their mission is to provide these members with the highest quality, most authoritative energy assessment products and services.
Next, we heard from Martyn Reed, Elmhurst’s Managing Director. He reinstated the company’s commitment to reducing energy emissions by homes in the UK.
Looking at UK emissions by sector, homes contribute to 13% of the total. There are many issues related to the high level of energy emissions. Climate change, air quality, fuel security and fuel poverty are at the forefront of most people’s minds.
Such issues can have a knock-on effect on other areas. For example, the current poor state of housing in the UK is calculated to be costing the NHS £760m a year.
Elmhurst encourages the Government to lead by example. The current consultation, calling for evidence on how EPCs are currently performing. This is a good opportunity for landlords and other property professionals to have their say, but it is vital that we all make a clear and to the point contribution, in order to provide valuable feedback.
The Clean Growth Strategy has been devised to set a target for expected standards in the next few decades, in order to make a drastic difference. Overall, it aims to halve the energy usage of new buildings by 2030, and halve the costs of achieving the same standard in existing buildings.
Specifically, for the private rented sector (PRS), in terms of EPCs, the Clean Growth Strategy is striving for all private rented properties to meet a minimum requirement of band C by 2030.
To round off his talk, Martyn Reed raised the question: “Do EPCs have a future?” His answer was: “On the basis: ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’, the answer is a definite yes.”
Stuart Fairlie, Technical Director at Elmhurst Energy, went into further detail about the Government’s ‘Energy Performance Certificates in Buildings: Call for Evidence’.
The Government has worked hard to develop the consultation, so that it allows for as many issues and suggestions to be raised as possible. Fairlie stresses that if you have suggestions, but are unsure of which section they belong in, make use of question 26. This question invites participants to give any additional comments.
Other suggestions discussed during the talk include incentives for those who are early to adopt new policies, as well as penalties for those who drag their feet and leave it until the last minute. More help to property owners should be made readily available, with energy assessors freed up to provide advice on improving the energy efficiency of their homes.
Fairlie’s conclusion was that we should not try to reinvent the wheel. It is important that we build upon existing tools, such as EPCs.
Beginning the afternoon session was Gavin Dunn, CEO of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) and a member of the UK Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC).
Dunn mentioned in his talk that the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2002 and 2010, as well as the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive were both put in place by the European Union. With Brexit on the horizon, it is to be expected that many EU initiatives may be restructured or replaced. It will be interesting to see what changes this will bring to energy performance regulations.
We then heard from David Weatherall, Head of Policy at Energy Saving Trust, and his views on the current state of fuel poverty. There is an overall issue with those on a lower income struggling with energy bills. The problem largely lies with the energy efficiency of their homes. Factors such as old boilers and inadequate insulation result in higher bills, and these expenses result in a vicious cycle of homeowners not being able to afford the costs of upgrading and making improvements.
The situation could be seen to be just as dire in the PRS, as there are no specific regulations requiring landlords to update individual appliances, as long as the overall property now meets a minimum EPC rating of E. It seems clear that more needs to be done to encourage landlords to see the humanitarian side of improving the energy efficiency of their properties, rather than simply to avoid a penalty.
Weatherall feels that we need to see MEES implemented better. There needs to be more support and advice made available from the Government, as a way to support landlords to take action.
Finally, we heard from Simon Ayers, Chief Executive of TrustMark, the Government endorsed scheme for trades in and around the home. He also reiterated the point that there needs to be support for existing schemes.
In particular, there needs to be more attention given to fuel poverty areas. Long-term, it would be great to see a focus on an overall retrofit for existing homes in the UK, as well as further consideration about the development of energy efficient new builds.