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Experts call for overhaul of outdated EPCs to boost energy efficiency

Elmhurst Energy, a leading training and accreditation provider for energy efficiency professionals, is urging the government to reform Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) to better support carbon reduction and energy-saving policies.

The need for reform
Currently, EPCs are used to guide policies on reducing carbon emissions and energy use, but Elmhurst Energy argues that they are inadequate for this purpose. “EPCs are a powerful tool for estimating energy bills, but we are asking them to do a job they weren’t designed for,” said Stuart Fairlie, managing director of Elmhurst Energy. “With reform, they could deliver so much more.”

The proposed reforms include measuring the ‘three Cs’—energy consumption, energy cost, and carbon emissions—and renewing EPCs every three years or when significant changes to a building occur. “EPCs now need to include information on the energy cost, energy use, and carbon emissions of a home or building,” Fairlie added. “To make them easier to understand, the format should change to something similar to food labelling.”

The government’s role
The government was expected to release its EPC consultation this summer as part of the EPC Action Plan launched in 2020. Elmhurst Energy’s Almanac 2024, ‘Driving progress during political change,’ outlines ten policy and regulatory recommendations to enhance the energy performance of UK homes and buildings, including key changes to EPCs.

Key recommendations for EPC reform

  1. The ‘Golden Triangle’ of information:
  • Asset rating: The predicted energy cost and consumption based on average occupancy.
  • Occupancy rating: The predicted energy consumption based on actual usage.
  • Energy consumption: The actual energy used by the building, ideally measured by smart meters.

      2. Launch the ‘New EPC’ alongside the Home Energy Model (HEM) and Future Homes Standard (FHS):

  • Aligning the new EPC with HEM and FHS standards, which are expected to be part of upcoming consultations, will ensure cohesive energy efficiency policies.

      3. Rebalance tax applied to fuel:

  • Shifting the ‘green levy’ from electricity to gas will make low-carbon heating solutions, such as heat pumps, more financially attractive.

      4. Reinstate minimum energy efficiency targets:

  • Reintroduce targets for the private rented sector, requiring non-domestic tenancies to achieve EPC C by 2027 and EPC B by 2030. For domestic properties, aim for EPC C by 2028 for new and renewed tenancies.

      5. Launch a retrofit advice hub:

  • A centralised online resource providing guidance on energy efficiency improvements, green finance options, and renewable technologies. This hub would help homeowners find accredited professionals and make informed decisions about property upgrades.

Impact on tenants and landlords
These reforms are vital for improving the energy efficiency of UK buildings and supporting the transition to net zero. They also promise to make it easier for landlords and tenants to understand and achieve energy efficiency targets. As Fairlie noted, “Improving [EPCs] would unlock the potential they offer for improving the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings, making them carbon net zero-ready.”

Paving the way for a greener future
Elmhurst Energy’s call for a comprehensive overhaul of EPCs highlights the need for updated, accurate, and user-friendly certificates to drive the UK’s energy efficiency efforts. By implementing these reforms, the government can ensure that EPCs provide valuable information, support decarbonisation, and contribute to a sustainable future for all. For UK landlords, this represents an opportunity to enhance property value and meet evolving regulatory standards, ultimately benefiting tenants and the environment alike.