EPC Regulation Changes January 2013

 Does this Government change of policy make sense to you, home owners and buyers?  

Blog by Mike Crompton, Chair of Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors

EPC Regulation Changes January 2013
January 2nd, 2013
The changes to EPC regulations due to come into force next week on January 9 are totally irresponsible.
This is an attempt by the Government to water down their earlier plans to meet EU requirements, by using their ‘policy’ of removing perceived ‘red tape’ or ‘Gold Plating’ of EU requirements.

IDEA can only reiterate the comments already made by Stephen O’Hara, PEPA Chairman, and those of Andrew Warren, Director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy that:-

“These latest changes announced by Government make a total mockery of David Cameron’s pledge to be the greenest government ever. The changes have effectively watered down the Government’s previous commitment to meet the targets set out by Europe and demonstrate a total lack of understanding of the value EPCs and DECs can offer both consumers and businesses.” Steven O’Hara (PEPA)

“The Coalition Government has just published a strategy to make energy efficiency – particularly in buildings, ‘at the heart of a low carbon economy’.
“I defy anybody to demonstrate how these latest proposals help achieve that objective. Instead they overtly hinder them.
“I fail to see why we are adopting such a slavishly literalistic interpretation of the European rules, rather than building upon these requirements to provide people with helpful rather than complex instructions.” Andrew Warren (ACE)

This Government, despite it’s rhetoric about being the “Greenest Government ever”, has never invested in promoting EPCs and highlighting the energy and money-saving advice which they contain and rather than building upon these requirements to provide people with helpful rather than complex information they are removing the requirement from approximately 20% of the UK housing stock, many of which are the country’s least energy efficient properties.
The awareness of the real value of EPCs among the general public is poor. Few people are really aware of what the document actually contains and how it can be used to help reduce their fuel bills and also their Carbon Emissions.

This latest announcement is also somewhat at odds with the launch of their of the flagship “Green Deal” policy of energy efficiency improvements, for which the starting point is the EPC.
The government is hopeful that upwards of 40,000 properties will take advantage of this initiative in the 1st year, starting this month; many of those properties that could benefit are those they have decided do not require an EPC at sale or rental.
It would seem to be that Government departments are not working in harmony with each other in a unified Energy Strategy for the UK. It is difficult to see how this latest announcement will help them to reach their 2020 targets for energy and carbon reductions.

To remove the need for an EPC for listed buildings makes no practicable sense. The changes often recommended within the EPC, such as the use of low-energy lighting, the installation of a new energy efficient condensing boiler, loft insulation, draught proofing, would have no visual impact on the fabric of a building, yet could significantly improve its energy efficiency. The only recommendations that would require further detailed consideration are those that would affect the visual impact of ‘listed’ buildings, like internal or external wall insulation.
Even these proposals are not insurmountable and DECC have already established a “Traditional/Vulnerable Buildings Working Group” (TBWG) in combination with Asset Skills and other interested parties like English Heritage, Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), the National Trust and energy assessment organisations like IDEA, to look at ways that these can be installed without detriment to the physical or visual properties of such buildings.

The changes as announced have treated EPCs and DECs as an unwelcome result of European bureaucracy, as opposed to the value-adding information tool they are supposed to be – helping consumers, business and the public sector to reduce energy consumption and at the same time, lower fuel bills.

Compliance to the regulations is already low, especially so in the commercial sector and will fall further as local authorities Trading Standards offices will no longer bother to police it at all.

The new guidance does nothing to address the seriously high level of non-compliance which has been rife since the EPC was first introduced and could bring the Government into dispute with the EU over this.

Trading Standards Officers are not fulfilling already their statutory duties to ensure that EPCs are correctly commissioned when a property goes up for sale or let, and this needs addressing immediately, before further central funding is wasted and the Government faces huge fines from the EU for its failures in implementation and management of the EPBD.

The Government is currently allocating £1.9m of taxpayers’ money each year to assist local authorities in ensuring compliance, but these funds are not ring fenced and are therefore ‘lost’ in local authority spending..
By failing to keep track of how this money is being spent by individual local authorities, central government has no way of identifying how these funds are being used or which local authorities are failing in their duties.”
This money is however ‘dwarfed’ by the fines that could be imposed by Brussels in the order of £50M.

This is all another example of ‘sound bite’ politics from one Government department with no consideration given to other Government department policies.

Mike Crompton
Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors