The 12 Days of Christmas

As someone who has been involved in Energy Efficiency for my whole professional career, I have been extravagant and issued myself twelve wishes at Christmas. These are my personal views, but I hope they strike accord with other like minded people. My personal journey since 1997 has been one of learning, adapting and constantly moving with the times.

I have lived and breathed through energy ratings and calculations for professional institutions before the chaotic period of Home Information Packs, and the subsequent stand alone EPC Industry (I worked on the original RdSAP methodology and the first version of the EPC), I have seen Building Regulation targets created, set and then scrapped and a plethora of policies come and go,.... So here goes my 12 wishes*

* they are not in any particular order:

1. Energy Performance Certificates not to have a 10 year lifespan: The Labour Government (c.2005/06) did not want to be seen to be ‘gold plating’ any Legislation, they therefore chose the longest (10 year) period they could for the lifetime of an EPC. All contributors at the time said this was far too long and the EPC was effectively probably useless after a couple of years. Pragmatic folk suggested 3 years as being reasonable. So my first wish is that sense prevails and dusty old EPCs are a thing of the past and people get up to date, correct and valid Certificates which will help them make better decisions.

2. EPCs are not just the ‘A-G graph’: my personal ‘pet hate’...EPCs are certainly not just the graph, they are so much more, they give information at different levels both of price of running a home/building as well as carbon emissions, good and bad parts about the building and recommendations of how to improve...the document is good. I am sure we could make it better, but a start would be to get people to understand the A-G rating is NOT an EPC.

3. Fuel Poverty Funding actually goes to the worst homes first: This country is supposed to be first world, yet every indicator shows that fuel poverty is increasing! The money spent to remove people from this ‘nightmare’ is being reduced in England (ECO spending is going down) – yet at the moment it looks like the ECO industry will chase the newest property with the most bedrooms, that is the smallest! (deemed scores). This will maximise income for everyone in the ECO supply chain. The families will be put last....we suggested that at the very least they incentivise the supply chain to install in the E, F and G rated homes, otherwise they will waste the money in B and C rated homes and claim that they are making inroads to the most needy; I hope that sense prevails.

4. Energy Assessors can become ‘Energy Advisors’: who can actually explain and drive Energy Efficiency for the good of home owners/landlords/business owners: self explanatory really, but again at the beginning it was part of the HIP requirements that everything is impartial, and that no advice can be given. This ultimately has left a ‘vacuum’ where no one is explaining the virtues of the Certificate for the home; I think professional energy experts who give independent advice are fundamentally required.

5. Green Mortgages: When I first started, Mortgage Lenders back in 1997 – 2006 (pre HIPs) offered green mortgage solutions. Allowing people to understand that by investing in ‘energy efficiency’, they will reduce their fuel spend, whilst improving their own home. They are back on the agenda, the banks can use the EPC to understand a person’s potential fuel spend and therefore more accurately identify disposable income predictions and thereby make better lending decisions too. At the same time, people can invest in their home at decent low rates, saving money on future fuel bills.

6. Estate Agents talk about the EPC as part of the house purchasing process, rather than in some cases dismiss it. The EPC is not a scary document, it may sometimes reflect homes as being poor and therefore not something which sells a property; but as they say every cloud has a silver lining, even the E, F and G rated ones can be improved!!

7. Heating Systems explained in easy language: Information is available to members of the public on how to actually run their home efficiently in easy to read language. The Building Regulations was supposed to leave information like this in layman’s language, but did it occur?; also what about the other millions of existing homes with nothing. The amount of times I have been asked by relatives and friends about controls and thermostats in their new homes, a simple handy explanation would save us all lots of money (and carbon!).

8. Fair Auditing for ALL: I wish that the Industry stops and gets the ‘auditing’ right. For a long time assessors have complained about auditing, the schemes have complained about the Scheme Operating Requirements (SORs) being fit for purpose and too complex and rigid to make auditing successful. I hope that the current revision of the SORs which has been requested by Government takes on board what it is all about, ‘correct Energy Certificates’, not the correct photograph of a miniscule part of a survey. The outcome is king and the auditing should be the assurance that it is correct. I hope for the sake of everyone that the new SORs reflect good practise in other industries and get the good guys working and educates the bad guys and ultimately have the sanctions to remove unscrupulous people from the industry. To be fair and consistent across all schemes, I think this will be especially welcome by us all at Elmhurst and our members.

9. Action on Recommendations: I wish that we could have an easier journey for people who have a list of recommendations in how to obtain these. The EPC is just the start, they benchmark the home/building. I want to see serious action to get homes and businesses warmer and spending less money heating and lighting them.

10. Energy Certificates continue to be the back bone of Energy Efficiency Strategies and Policies: The measuring tape is not wrong, certainly some of the recent policies events have changed and tweaked so quickly that it is hard to sometimes keep up, but the benchmark that the EPC gives must be used as the base position. How else will any policy be measured a success or not?

11. Pay As You Save: I hope that a simple ‘pay as you save’ model is produced, as we all know it is a ‘win, win’ situation for all. It doesn’t need to be complex, just easy to understand and implement.

12. Consistency of approach from Government: This may well be my longest ‘shot’ but wouldn’t it be nice if we had a simple long term vision and plan, rather than the stop start policies which are an unfortunate consequence of 5 year terms and even more ministerial changes every year! Maybe I can get 11 wishes and have to accept that 12 is asking too much! Bah humbug.

Please note the 12 requests are my own and are not reflective of Elmhurst as a whole, but hopefully some nice ideas that many people may agree with (or not!) I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Stuart Fairlie – Head of Technical, Elmhurst Energy

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