Calls For Overhaul Of Energy Performance Certificates

Calls For Overhaul Of Energy Performance Certificates
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7 March 2023 – Industry insiders say Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are no longer fit for purpose and need to be updated.

When EPCs were introduced over 15 years ago, their aim was to show potential buyers of a home how cheap or expensive it is to run.

But today’s buyers are not just interested in running costs, they also want to know the property’s energy consumption and carbon emissions. Therefore, the Energy Performance Certificates need to be overhauled to meet these needs.

Energy assessors accreditation scheme Elmhurst Energy have published recommendations to update EPCs, so they can help achieve net-zero, tackle fuel property and improve buildings.

What Are Energy Perforamance Certificates?

EPCs are legally valid documents, which show how energy efficient a property is. Ratings range from A, very efficient, to G, inefficient.

Information on an EPC includes:

  • How much it will cost to heat and light the property
  • Its likely carbon emissions
  • Recommendations on how to improve the rating (including estimated costs)
  • What the rating would be if recommended improvements were made
  • Cost-effective ways to improve the rating

An Energy Performance Certificate is valid for 10 years. If you want to sell or rent a property, you need a valid EPC.

Recently EPCs have been criticised a lot as no longer being fit for purpose.

Against a backdrop of rising fuel poverty, environmental pressures and energy security concerns, EPCs are coming in for a lot of scrutiny and criticism. This is understandable, as the EPC as it exists now is over 15 years old. It was designed then simply as a cost metric, showing how expensive or cheap a home is to run. This is now too basic a measure for the challenges we face today. People care about cost, energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

Stuart Fairlie, Managing Director at Elmhurst Energy

Back in 2020, the Telgraph reported about the energy sector’s dissatisfaction with EPCs.

One criticism levelled at the certificate scheme is that it puts cost efficiency above environmental impact. Especially when it comes to gas versus electricity.

When EPC were introduced in 2007, heating a property with gas was more efficient than using electricity. But technology has improved, and we now also use more renewable energy sources.

So today electricity is seen as twice as environmentally friendly as gas. Even though, in July 2022, there was an update of the Standard Assessment Procuder to reflect this change and correct the energy efficiency rating for electric heating, many still think it’s not fit for purpose.

But there are other criticisms, for example that for new builds the EPC can be issued based on design data rather than the actual building.

In February, The Sunday Times reported that new research has shown that energy use on EPCs is wildly overestimated, by as much as 344%. Given that these certificates are vital when selling or renting a property, this is a big problem.

While some call to scrap the scheme, others believe that it can be a powerful tool to fight climate change, but only if it is overhauled.

Recommendations To Redeisgn EPCs

Elmhurst Energy thinks that EPCs need to be redesigned to make them work for the needs of today. In their almanac they published this month they set out their policy recommendations.

Rather than an EPC being valid for 10 years, Elmhurst Energy believes it should be renewed at least every three years. A new EPC should also be issued whenever there is a change to the property that affects its energy performance.

This will ensure that these certificates reflect the current situation of the property, rather than the past.

They also suggest that any redesign needs to include the “Three Cs”: energy consumption, energy cost and carbon emissions.

A further recommendation says that EPCs should use the “Golden Triangle”. This means they should include information about the property’s predicted energy cost and consumption based on average occupancy.

But it should also give information about the occupancy rating, which is based on the people that actually live at the property. The third corner of the triangle is information about the property’s energy consumption.

Assessment methodologies also need to keep up to date with new technologies and innovation to ensure the certificate remains fit for purpose in future.

Elmhurst Energy also believes that more education around energy efficiency is needed. They propose that energy assessors could be used to provide this education to consumers.

Qualified energy assessors should also be used more to advise homeowners about renewable technologies in an effort to boost uptake.

Other recommendations include a call to rebalance the fuel tax to ensure low emission fuels are favoured over fossil fuels. And the creation of a national standard for net-zero buildings with an independent certification scheme.

Elmhurst believes that if the Government follows its recommendations then EPCs can contribute to the achievement of the UK’s net-zero target.


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