Our new blog - and a new consultation

25/Jan/2010
Brian Scannell

Welcome to the first blog post on the new NES website. On the Insights Blog we'll be posting comments, opinions and general goings-on from the world of energy efficiency and beyond.

We hope you'll like it - and that you'll join in the conversation by commenting below.

Our Report Seizing the Opportunity highlighted the role of energy assessments in reducing wasted energy cost and curbing carbon emissions from our homes. In the next few weeks we are expecting the latest government consultation – this time it is the Household Energy Management Strategy. We are wondering whether the nettle of energy waste in existing homes will have been seized?

Our seizing the Opportunity report

The Seizing the Opportunity report analysed more than 300,000 RDSAP EPCs issued by NHER members for homes marketed sale in the period to March 2009. The report shows that implementing the recommendations in the EPC would give average savings of £182 per year in energy costs – a 22% saving.

These savings come from familiar measures, loft and cavity wall insulation and, particularly, heating system improvements. Implementing the additional measures in the EPC would double the total savings.

We also contacted a sample of homebuyers who had purchased a property with an NHER EPC. More than half of those we spoke to recalled reading their EPC and a third of those who read it had made some of the suggested energy efficiency improvements – with a further 9% intending to do so in the near future.

But approximately a third of them did not recall receiving an EPC and others didn’t read it or disagreed with the recommendations. So we still have some way to go in making sure the EPC can drive forward improvements in the energy efficiency of our homes.

We make a number of recommendations in the report. These start with relatively simple suggestions that could be implemented almost immediately, such as requiring that the rating and key recommendations are included in marketing particulars. More long-term, we recommend changes to the RDSAP methodology to improve the assessment for low carbon technologies and to improve the accuracy of cost and saving estimates.

But fundamentally, all of the recommendations are aimed at making sure that the EPC and the role of the energy assessor are recognised as being central to cutting waste and reducing emissions.

What will the future hold?

Brian Scannell, managing directorWe await the arrival of the latest consultation with a mixture of optimism and trepidation – is this going to help our industry and enable real progress to be made or is it just another consultation that goes nowhere? Or worse still, another HEA?

There are some grounds for optimism. Politicians of all persuasions have finally acknowledged that improving the energy efficiency of our existing buildings is vital if we are to cut emissions and minimise our dependence on importing gas and oil.

Whilst they may describe the plans differently, they all really come down to the same thing – making it easier and more desirable for homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. A goal we wholeheartedly support.

What our report helps to demonstrate is that professional energy assessors can and must play a crucial role in achieving that goal - something we hope the HEMS consultation will properly recognise.

What are your thoughts on the HEMS consultation? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments

 

In my experience, by far the most inefficient properties are those in the private rented sector. Landlords have no incentive to make properties more energy-efficient as they don't pay the bills. Tennants don't generally make improvements to properties because they are only there for a short period.

So, currently, EPCs for the private rented properties are an exercise in futility. What is needed is an obligation on landlords to contribute to the energy costs of the tennants on a sliding scale according to EPC Efficiency Rating such as 5% for A&B, up to 80 for G.

That might have an impact.

 

I would turn that initiative on its head and say why not enthuse the private landlord by offering grants or similar on the same sliding scale?
There is enough regulation choking what, if any, profit a private landlord can make without bring in more covert taxes. As a DEA and private landlord I see both sides of the coin.
EPCs are futile if they are a. not enforced by local Trading Standards b. not promoted by occupiers / agents / landlords.

 

What is needed is a different driver on the energy certificate issue including grants available to both home-owners and landlords on energy saving measures.

The notes at the bottom of the EPC do not promote the grants but often just direct people to another website where they have to navigate many pages to get information.

The fact that many tenants and buyers do not see the certificates is because agents view them as sales killers and do not promote energy saving as a benefit. They have to promote homes in the best light not as poorly efficient gas guzzling homes which in the private sector many are.

The whole market needs to be taken out of the hands of these middle man who make profit just on Epcs and Hips. We need to drive this whole issue another way and until we do nothing will change.

We now have the tools and people to enact this change by becoming energy advisor's to both sellers, tenants, buyers and landlords.

The energy certificate should be accompanied by a key document called the energy report that must include more detailed advice on where to source grants and be made available in layman terms to all not just as a side issue.
This is what will change the industry.

 

I believe that to encourage implementation of recommendations, the financial benefit needs to be more directly accessible. A reduction in VAT (to 5% ?) on all materials and products for property energy efficiency improvement would be a start.

 

What do you mean "Or worse still, another HEA?" I just broke off from doing your HEA Training Module to read this blog. My hope is that all properties which will benefit from significant improvements suggested in the EPC will be offered a visit from a qualified HEA who can earn commission from the improvements made. This can be paid for by energy companies meeting their CERT (Carbon Emissions Reduction) Targets.

 

As energy efficiency programmes roll out, a huge responsibility will be placed on Home Energy Advisers (HEAs) to deliver energy efficiency. Though door knocking on a street by street basis, they will be required to persuade homeowners to retrofit their homes, adopt low carbon lifestyles and reduce waste.

However, results from existing projects and trials to date are not promising. The London Development Authority’s Home Energy Efficiency Programme (HEEP) trials for example, show that more than 70% of consumers did not take up easy measures offered even though they were free. Energy Savings Trust’s Penistone area project had only a 13% uptake. As a result, costs are currently around £2,000 per tonne of carbon saved.

Some of the reasons for the low uptake rate are:

most door knocking is on a cold call basis with few pre-booked appointments being arranged
most homeowners are out during the day and are not receptive to unsolicited visits during evenings and weekends.
HEAs are expected to gain homeowners permission to carry out energy audits etc at the time they door knock. Audits can take up to two hours and not surprisingly most homeowners are not receptive to this without pre-agreement.
Most HEAs do not have good, “sales consultancy” and communication skills.
The salaries offered (£16,000-£22,000 in London) have not attracted the best quality candidates
there is no agreed national standard for HEA training
businesses and community groups have not been pre-engaged to publicise programmes.
Convincing homeowners in the private sector to improve energy efficiency is a huge challenge. Like any other product / service, energy efficiency needs to be “sold” to homeowners and therefore top quality “sales consultants” are required. However, some delivery agents are hiring unemployed people with inadequate skills on a self-employed basis with pay linked to the number of visits, not uptake of energy saving measures. Some vacancies are also being advertised without requirement for a City & Guilds Energy Awareness or DEA qualification or minimum standards of attire.

So what is the solution? Every commercial organisation knows that top quality sales are required to be successful. If delivery agents recruit HEAs with poor sales and communication skills, low uptake will follow. Complaints will also increase resulting in resident’s trust in Councils being undermined and energy efficiency programmes, failing. In my view, Domestic Energy Assessors with proven sales consultancy and communication skills are required to be retrained as HEAs, not young people on apprentice schemes. Salaries on offer also need to be increased to attract quality candidates and telesales staff are needed to pre-book appointments for HEAs as much as possible.

Of course this will increase staffing costs but the risk is that if delivery agents don't do this, we will end up with low uptake of energy savings measures, loss of residents' trust, failure of energy efficiency programmes and carbon reduction targets not being met.

For more information please see http://www.homesmatter.co.uk/home_buying_reform/$energy_efficiency_blog/2010/02/01/who_should_be_home_energy_advisers

Post new comment