A government consultation was launched this week, outlining proposals to upgrade as many homes as possible to an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2030, to make progress towards both fuel poverty and net zero carbon targets. The policy aims to have a multi-pronged impact to deliver significant emissions reductions, decrease bills for low income and vulnerable tenants whilst improving housing quality, investment in high-skilled jobs and national energy security.
From 2030, it will become a statutory requirement for properties in the private rented sector (PRS) to achieve at least a ‘C’ rating. So what should be considered and what are the challenges involved?
Of all EPCs lodged for existing domestic properties last year, only 38% of them achieved a ‘C’ rating or above. Considering that the PRS is notorious for having some of the worst energy efficiency standards across the housing market, it is likely that the vast majority of these dwellings will require improvements to bring them up to standard.
As dramatic as this sounds, the good news is that a relatively large proportion of existing dwellings are falling within Band D, as illustrated in the chart below. Therefore, in many cases it may be possible to reach the ‘C’ rating through relatively cheap, superficial changes such as switching to low energy lighting, installing loft insulation or upgrading an old gas boiler.
However, for dwellings with an ‘E’ rating or below, which are typically characterised by a lack of insulation and a direct electric heating system, extensive improvements may be required. These could include retrofitting uninsulated walls and floors, or reconfiguring the entire heating or hot water systems. However, it is likely that many landlords will be able to avoid making improvements if they are deemed not to be practical, cost-effective and affordable.
Projects on construction
In terms of building developments, although the vast majority of new build houses will achieve a ‘C’ rating or above, it will become critical over the next few years for material change of use and conversion projects to consider predicted EPC ratings at design stage, to ensure that specification improvements are made to enable a higher rating. This may involve avoiding direct electric heating in favour of gas boilers or heat pumps, or increasing insulation levels beyond Part L requirements to improve u-values.
This could become increasingly difficult and costly if plans to phase out new mains gas heating system connections in the UK, which may also have implications on the electricity costs and subsequently EPC ratings.
How about my house?
Most properties already have an Energy Performance Certificate, which can be found on the government register using the postcode search function: https://find-energy-certificate.digital.communities.gov.uk/
As well as showing the EPC rating and estimated household bills, the page also outlines the recommended energy efficiency improvements specific to the dwelling, including predicted capital costs, potential household bills savings and also how each improvement would impact the EPC rating.
The Green Homes Grant
Since September, homeowners in England have been able to apply for a voucher that covers at least two-thirds of the cost of their recommended energy efficient retrofit works, as quoted by an accredited local supplier. This aims to benefit applicants in terms of running costs and overall value of their home, whilst hopefully enabling many more properties to improve their EPC ratings. Read our article about the scheme here.
To read the consultation in full, click on the following link: Improving the Energy Performance of Privately Rented Homes in England and Wales.
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Written by Tom King | Sustainability Consultant