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Energy Performance Certificates

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 2 July 2009


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have assessed the level of compliance with the requirement to provide energy performance certificates for buildings being sold in the commercial property sector.

My Lords, no assessment has been made. Energy performance certificates have only been required for all non-domestic buildings constructed, sold or rented since October 2008. Local weights and measures authorities are responsible for enforcing these requirements. We support them in carrying out their duties by providing guidance and access to the EPC register and database. We will assess the level of compliance later this year.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. A survey by National Energy Services reveals either almost total ignorance or disregard of the need for energy performance certificates in the commercial sector. Energy performance certificates are the one really useful tool to come out of the Government’s regulation of the property market. Around 11,000 accredited energy inspectors, largely trained at their own expense, are wondering why Her Majesty’s Government encouraged them to undertake their training. What steps are the Government considering to overcome this failure?

My Lords, I certainly support the noble Lord in underlining the importance of EPCs because they play a vital role in energy policy. As I said in my response, we are proposing to assess levels of compliance later this year and have commissioned a comprehensive research project that is to be carried out in two phases. The first phase will look at the operational effectiveness of the current arrangements and the second at compliance and value for money. It is due to report finally in the summer of next year. I can tell the noble Lord that to date some 92,000 non-domestic EPCs have been lodged on the register, so it is having some effect. However, there are issues around non-compliance which need to be seriously addressed.

My Lords, considering—I am sorry, a touch of swine flu, I think. I shall start again. The Minister says that he supports EPCs, but is he aware that the newly formed Association of Property and Energy Professionals, which represents home inspectors and domestic energy assessors, is taking the Government to judicial review and will probably launch a class action because the Government have created two industries but, through their actions, have removed the need for DEAs and home inspectors? With the creation of the home energy assessor role, which is yet another layer, all the people who trained and who sometimes spent their life savings on it are now finding their role being taken on by other organisations. A press release from British Gas says that its meter readers will take on the role. Can the Minister say whether this is a good use of government money, given that it could cost £70 million?

My Lords, I was not aware that there is a prospect of judicial review. If that is the case, I should not say too much from the Dispatch Box on the issue. The number of assessors is for the market to determine. I acknowledge that people have trained to undertake these responsibilities and, obviously, the greater the compliance that can be engendered, the greater the prospects for those people who are in the field.

My Lords, I declare an interest as someone who lets property. As from the end of last year—I think it was October—an energy performance certificate has been needed for any property that is available for letting. However, I am not sure I understand what has just been said. Is it that the highly-qualified people are rather like expert surgeons, who can still do minor surgery and therefore there would be employment for them in that sense, or is it that because they are so well qualified they can no longer do domestic work? What the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said was a little confusing.

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right: from October 2008 any domestic or non-domestic property which is sold, constructed or let requires an EPC. The EPCs are generated by approved assessors and different standards apply for those dealing with domestic dwellings and those dealing with non-domestic dwellings. They have to be accredited through schemes which are themselves approved by the Secretary of State, but the standards and expertise required of someone doing an EPC on a domestic dwelling would not have to be the same as those required of someone doing an EPC on a commercial property.

My Lords, in the spirit of leading by example—something that, sadly, did not happen with HIPs—can the Minister confirm that 100 per cent of the government-owned commercial property that was sold or let during the past six months, or since October if he would prefer, was properly marketed with an energy performance certificate.

My Lords, that is a very interesting question. The answer is that I would certainly hope so. I asked those who briefed me about government buildings and the publication of DECs whether there was full compliance with that requirement. The answer I received is that there was a high level of compliance. I hope that that is exceeded in the case raised by the noble Earl.

My Lords, as this subject has come up very frequently in the past two or three years, how many Members of your Lordships’ House does the noble Lord think would pass an examination on this legislation on the basis of what we have heard so far?

My Lords, I am not sure how many Members of your Lordships’ House would be keen to undertake the role of an assessor in these circumstances. However, in all seriousness, this is a hugely important policy. We know that there is an overwhelming body of scientific evidence which indicates that climate change is a serious and urgent issue and that nearly half of all emissions in this country come from buildings. EPCs mean that, for the first time, consumers will know how energy efficient buildings are and how to make them perform better. I hope noble Lords will join me in trying to get those messages out generally.