Derek Thomas MP has welcomed the Building Research Establishment’s decision to overhaul energy performance certificates (EPCs) for housing. Measuring energy performance is essential to reducing bills and carbon emissions, but the current methodology is flawed. Derek has been campaigning for reform of the flawed EPC system since he was elected, most recently in a debate on affordable housing.
EPCs measure the energy performance of homes in the United Kingdom. They are based on an algorithm which makes too many assumptions about the diverse nature of our housing stock, especially in Cornwall. They can tell residents to install oil-fired heating, while ignoring modern and dynamic technologies which will help decarbonise the UK’s housing stock, such as heat pumps, renewables, storage technologies and smart control devices.
These flaws do not just lead to incorrect advice, preventing housebuilders from taking advantage of new technology and residents from retrofitting their properties in the most energy-efficient way. They also have a direct consequence on the housing crisis in Cornwall, as they incentivise landlords to switch to holiday lets from long-term tenancies, as Derek pointed out in a debate last week:
“I do not object to improving homes, making them warmer and their upkeep cheaper, with less of an impact on the environment, but my concern is that landlords seem to be subject to the EPC requirements in a way that holiday lets are not.
“If we think the problem is bad today, it will be disastrous for somewhere such as Cornwall, where buildings were constructed in a very different era compared with today... We will not get properties up to EPC rating C, so they will be lost to the rental market.
“The Government’s plan to make rented homes greener is not in itself a bad thing, although we can have a wider debate about whether an EPC is the right tool to deliver the desired outcome. It is a computer system that invariably says no, without the ability to understand or appreciate the diverse nature of the built environment.”
Since Derek’s speech, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have asked the Building Research Establishment to lead industrial and academic research to deliver a new methodology for the Standard Assessment Procedure which is used for measuring energy performance in homes. As the new methodology will improve EPC accuracy, energy efficiency measurements will be more reliable than ever.
“Ever since I was first elected, I have pressed for effective action to improve fuel poor homes – well insulated homes improve the development of our children, help older people live well for longer and are cheaper to run!
“Effective assessment of energy performance is absolutely central to our progress towards net zero – but the current system is not fit for purpose, and is driving long-let landlords out of providing homes for local families.
“Today’s announcement is welcome news, and shows that patiently applying pressure on practical problems can bring about the action we need.”