So where have all the DECs gone?
DECs are a great idea. Unlike EPC they provide clear information to the occupants of a building about how their energy use compares with that of others.
What's more, the regulations require that the DEC be renewed annually and the new certificate will clearly show whether energy use is improving or getting worse. Since the certificate must be displayed in a public area, the expectation is that this will encourage occupants to take their energy management more seriously.
CLG are to be congratulated for having the courage to implement DEC.
In Scotland, Northern Ireland and most of Europe, the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive has been interpreted as simply requiring the display of an up to ten year old EPC in public buildings.
And it seems that CLG do appreciate the potential benefits that DEC can deliver. Having been very critical of their interpretation of the requirement in the recast of the EPBD to expand the requirement for the display of certificates, I was delighted to hear that they propose to consult on promoting DEC beyond the public sector.
We think DEC have a huge amount to offer, particularly in the retail sector and we would love to see DEC being mandatory for all commercial buildings. So any proposal to expand their use – even if initially on a voluntary basis – is to be welcomed.
But there is a lurking problem.
The number of DEC issued during the period September 2009 to January 2010 is down nearly 12% compared with the previous year.
So nearly 2,000 buildings for which a DEC was issued when they were first introduced do not appear to have had it renewed when they should have.
And the situation is probably worse in practice. For the first round of DEC, 'site certificates' were allowed that covered a number of buildings e.g. on a university campus. This option expired during 2009, so we would have expected to see the total number of DEC issued over the past few months increase. Instead we have seen a marked decrease.
I'm sure I would have noticed if hundreds of schools, hospitals and local authority buildings had closed over the past twelve months, so the reduction can only mean that lots of public buildings are in breach of the regulations.
We know that CLG aren't exactly leading the charge to ensure high levels of compliance with the EPBD regulations, but it is completely ridiculous that they are ignoring widespread non-compliance with their flagship initiative.
The policy area in which Ministers argued passionately that 'gold plating' the Directive was justified is now looking distinctly tarnished.
In an attempt to get them to address this issue, I have written to the Minister making a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act for a list of those buildings where the DEC has not been updated. I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything.
In the meantime, next time you go into a public building, look for their DEC and check when it was issued and whether it is overdue for renewal. If it is, let us know the details.