Back in July 2018, the government launched a “Call for Evidence on Energy Performance Certificates”. To read our blog click here.
Over two years later the government has published an “Action Plan”, setting out what it is going to do in the light of the responses it received. However, if you are worried about the consequences of the government launching a radical overhaul of the system and massively expanding its reach while everyone is distracted by a global pandemic, don’t be. There are no immediate changes. Instead, the government has set out its current thinking and explained what it is going to consider in more detail. Timelines stretch, in many cases, to the end of 2021 providing helpful transparency on the speed of change.
The Action Plan identifies three key strands of policy that the government is looking to tie together. These are:
• ensuring that EPCs are accurate, reliable and trusted;
• enabling EPCs to engage consumers and support other government policies; and
• providing a data infrastructure that is fit for the future of EPCs.
All three of these are welcome and to be encouraged, especially with the asset rating on an EPC likely to remain a critical metric for Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards and the government’s commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The government is committed to:
- A post-Brexit consultation on the law underpinning EPCs. The “EPB Regulations”, as they are known, derive from an EU Directive and the most recent set of Regulations dates from 2012. The government wants to see how a post Brexit environment can offer new opportunities for legislative flexibility and improvement.
- A renewed focus on enforcement of the Regulations, which the Action Plan recognises is a current weakness, over the course of 2021. This is likely to comprise both increased enforcement and also greater sanctions for breach. The Action Plan suggests that other parties might be brought into the scope of this as well, such as mortgage lenders, although it does not explain how.
- A move towards EPC ratings that are more reflective of actual energy use, as opposed to hypothetical energy efficiency. The real estate industry has long argued that for an EPC to be meaningful it has to reflect how a building is actually occupied and used, and it seems that the government has listened, although we must see first see the detailed proposals in the 2021 consultation.
- An increase in the use of EPCs, including more or updated trigger points for EPCs, which the government will consider by the end of 2021. The Action Plan suggests that a lot of the inconsistencies and areas of confusion over the current law were highlighted in responses to the Call for Evidence including: Houses in Multiple Occupation; the effect of having a smart meter; the effect of alterations to buildings; and what can and cannot be done with heritage buildings. The implication is that the government will be looking to resolve these issues. What they will propose is, of course, as yet unknown.
- A focus on increasing compliance with MEES, on which we may hear some news shortly as the Action Plan states that this will be done by the end of 2020. This will include “a consultation on the merits of setting requirements for lenders to help households improve energy performance of homes they lend to”, which sounds intriguing!
- A new EPC register by the end of 2020, with improved functionality including the ability to interact with other government owned databases (presumably the Land Registry, although it isn’t clear) but also incorporating Open Data access to real-time EPC datasets. The Action Plan acknowledges that there are complexities here that will need to be worked through, in particular around data protection and what happens if an individual opts out of having their data stored in the EPC database.
Inevitably, the detail of all of this remains to be worked through as the government carries on its thinking and launches its consultations, but it is promising to see that feedback given in 2018 has been heard and is being acted upon. Let’s hope it has also been understood. Only time will tell!