Some 12 months ago, the Department for Communities and Local Government opened a consultation on improving the Display Energy Certificates (DECs) regime for public buildings.
A year later, the consultation page still says, ‘We are analysing your feedback.’ But seemingly, behind closed doors, the decision on the much criticised consultation has been taken.
Energy in Buildings and Industry magazine (EiBI) has just printed a news story, in which it claims the ex-Communities Minister, James Wharton, wrote to a constituent saying; “I am happy to confirm that we have no current plans for changes to Display Energy Certificate requirements.”
Sajid Javid now heads up the Communities Department, following David Cameron’s departure from office.
But, says EiBI, neither Wharton nor Javid have yet to announce the U turn, or inform trading standards.
Why are DECs crucial?
A few months ago, Andrew Warren, British Energy Efficiency Federation, wrote in Business Green illustrating the vital role DECs play, and the bad joke the consultation has turned into.
“Some 15 years ago I chaired an inter-governmental, inter-professional taskgroup on sustainable construction and energy efficiency, for the Enterprise Directorate of the European Commission,” he began.
“Central to this was the requirement that actual fuel usage performance in each public or commercial building should regularly be measured and monitored, to enable it to be properly managed.”
This cornerstone of energy management theory was working well, through DECs, prior to the consultation. Warren pointed to the Department’s own buildings as a key example:
“Perhaps the biggest indictment of all was the failure even to consider how the existence of an annual DEC has improved the rating of the Communities Department’s own Midlands HQ at St Philips Place, Birmingham, where a low G rating in 2009, improved to an E in 2010, a D in 2011, and a C in 2012.
“This means that building will be emitting far fewer greenhouse gases than before. And its lower fuel bills will mean that it is operating at a far lower cost to the taxpayer.”
For these, and other reasons, the consultation has caused outrage. For many commentators, it failed to identify the key role DECs play.
Now, public sector efficiency can, in theory, start to ramp up yet further.
“Although no information has been released, I am in no doubt that when eventually published, it will be revealed that the vast majority of responses received will have told that Department they would be mad to alter DECs,” Warren wrote.
“Instead compliance efforts should be strengthened – and extended to cover the private sector too.”
What happens next?
This page, live on the Government’s web portal, says public authorities must have a DEC for a building if all the following are true:
a) it is at least partially occupied by a public authority (e.g. council, leisure centre, college, NHS trust)
b) it has a total floor area of over 250 square metres
c) it is frequently visited by the public
In the absence of any further comment, it seems to status quo has been restored. So the message must be; move now to improve public sector energy efficiency, and deliver a more fruitful DECs regime, and more carbon-healthy UK.
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