Lesley Rudd says that the more frequent publication of official government data on domestic energy efficiency can be a vital step in realising lower carbon homes that are more affordable to heat
Following a review on how information on energy efficiency is given out to the public, the government have now determined that detailed data should be published more regularly. This started with a statistical release of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) with the addresses included in June this year.
This is a significant development in the struggle to improve the energy efficiency of our homes, the need for which is both well-known and quantifiable. When energy efficiency measures are taken to limit the energy demand from buildings, research indicates that there are widespread benefits to areas such as healthcare, household income, the quality of the building stock and of course, the environment. Energy Performance Certificates run from rating G (very inefficient) to A (very efficient) and are used across the UK to give an indication of the current and potential energy costs and carbon emissions, which is linked to their level of energy efficiency.
In the Clean Growth Strategy, the government expressed its aspiration to raise all homes to EPC Band C wherever ‘practical, cost-effective and affordable’ by 2035. This is crucial if we are to reduce energy bills and achieve net-zero emissions, but it is no easy feat. Currently 63 per cent of homes in England and Wales fall below the EPC Band C target meaning that they have higher emissions, are harder to heat, and cost their occupants more in energy bills. Whilst this ambition has been warmly welcomed by industry, there is right now a lack of policy to deliver it. Moreover, there is nothing to hold the government to account if they do not achieve it.
The Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) has been supporting MP Sir David Amess’ Minimum Energy Efficiency (Domestic Properties) No.2 Bill, which aims to make the EPC Band C target a legal requirement and ultimately to ensure our homes are warmer and our energy bills and carbon emissions are reduced. More information of the EPC Band C campaign can be found on our website at the following link – bit.ly/2kQUrbx .
In 2017, the government published one-off, detailed information on the EPCs of buildings across England and Wales. It included the addresses of properties and their specific EPC rating in an open database website which allowed any interested party, for example local authorities, to access the data. The provision of this information was helpful for them to track the progress of EPC targets in their regions and to understand how successful policies have been in delivering energy efficiency improvements. The government’s decision to release this detailed data at least twice annually and possibly on a quarterly basis is, therefore, good news.
SEA members, as well as many others across the energy industry, have an interest in the increased quality and quantity of EPC data published which can help to track, improve and highlight geographic areas that need more investment and engagement to reach EPC Band C. It is important that granular data is released, including the exact location of a property that does not meet the standard. This will mean that local councils, energy companies and private sector organisations are able to identify households in need of support.
Further importance was placed on the topic of energy efficiency with the government’s announcement of the Future Homes Standard which will introduce ‘world leading’ levels of energy efficiency from 2025.
EPCs are a crucial part of identifying and measuring where energy efficiency could be improved, and more should be done to ensure that they are both reliable and accurate. With the government’s response to the Call for Evidence into EPCs (closed October 2018) expected soon, it will be interesting to see how the industry’s evidence is taken into account and how the framework is adjusted in light of more ambitious climate change and energy efficiency targets.
Ultimately, the release of more extensive information on EPCs will help the government to reach its energy efficiency goals and alleviate fuel poverty. The SEA will continue to progress with the EPC Band C campaign so that everyone has a warm and affordable home to live in.