EU Referendum- Its Impact on Energy Efficiency

Stuart Fairlie, Head of Technical explains why Elmhurst Energy won’t be sitting on the fence when it comes to tomorrows EU referendum.

At the time of going to press, energy efficiency has not been discussed in any referendum debates. Of course, it’s unlikely to be – when is energy efficiency ever debated at the national level? However, Elmhurst Energy believes that the European Union has done well in raising awareness and giving member state governments an opportunity to devise a long term strategy, tackling important issues that cannot be fixed in any one parliamentary term.

When the EU delivered the Energy Performance in Building Directive (EPBD) it required all member state governments to create an independent, objective and straightforward method of communicating energy efficiency performance to benefit consumers by allowing them to make intelligent buying decisions.

What was delivered?

  1. A simple rating system that people could understand and raise consumer awareness of energy efficiency in all buildings.
  2. Comparative methodologies with other member states, so we could learn from each others' experiences.
  3. A regime that required all buildings to have an up to date assessment giving consumers real benefit.
  4. Innovation and improvement in building products, a sector where UK industry leads the world.
  5. A facility to devise a long term view consistent across all member states.
  6. Over 17 million Energy Performance Certificates have been delivered in the UK alone, identifying hundreds of millions of pounds worth of cost efficiencies and CO2

The good news is that the consumers are starting to see their benefits, in fact a recent study by Go Compare Mortgages for the Daily Mail showed that warmth and energy efficiency were the top two items purchases value when looking at properties.

With the whole of the European Union focussing on energy efficiency we have a real chance to reduce the demand for energy, which will;

  • Create warmer homes and buildings with lower fuel bills
  • Reduce the need to build new and replacement power stations
  • Slow the impact fossil fuels have on climate change, and
  • Reduce our dependency on all imported fuels.

We believe that the UK is likely to be in a better position to push for improvements and influence the EU future energy challenges and policies from within, rather than in isolation. The country has a big decision to make soon. We hope that we make an informed choice based on facts.

If however the referendum does decide that the UK should leave the EU it will be just the start of the process to unravel legislation that the politicians want to keep, from that which they consider an imposition from Europe. A good example is that the Building Regulations/Standards require an EPC to ensure that the property satisfies the Regulations/Standards.

Most observers want to keep industry standards and so the EPC helps this process. Energy rating is not an invention of Europe and has been used to assess UK building stock for many years, and will continue with or without Europe. The Standard Assessment Procedure and the reduced version were invented in the UK for UK buildings and climate conditions. Many commitments that the Government make have nothing to do with Europe, for example, we recently signed up to reduce our carbon emissions by signing up to a UN climate change commitment. The Government will still need policies and tools to enable the country to use less energy and save people money. Consumers now expect information on everything they buy and buildings are no different. That demand will remain. If you buy a fridge or car and see an energy rating, why would consumers not want to know the same for the single biggest investment in their lives, their properties?

In our view a British exit from the EU will not be a disaster for energy assessors, but it will create uncertainty and ultimately may allow the Government to rethink the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations, which were the UK response to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. It is difficult to be sure whether the EU has led the UK, or vice versa, but, whatever the answer, because of the poor state of our housing, the high proportion of people in fuel poverty and our dependency on imported energy, it is important that the UK is at the top table when it comes to driving energy efficiency

Whatever the outcome of the referendum, or the decisions that follow, you can be sure that Elmhurst Energy will be lobbying the decision makers to ensure the good work Elmhurst Members do, is understood, and that the value of EPCs is fully appreciated.

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