EPC reform needed to help effectively decarbonise homes

Reforming Energy Performance Certificates to be net zero-ready will speed up the decarbonisation of the UK’s built environment, according to the Building Research Establishment.

Related topics:  Property,  EPC,  Energy Efficiency
Property | Reporter
2nd February 2024
Energy Efficiency 505
"With targeted reforms, the government can ensure the EPC can really achieve its potential, as a trusted starting point for advice and information on how we can all make our homes better"
- Gillian Charlesworth - Building Research Establishment

A new report – Energy Performance Certificates: Enabling the Home Energy Transition – outlines how EPCs for existing homes need to be developed to make them more useful for homeowners. BRE’s report presents ideas for their development and delivery to ensure they are ready for the transition of our homes to net zero including:

Currently, EPCs have a ten-year lifespan, meaning that a certificate provided when a home is sold or rented may be up to a decade old. With major changes planned to the way we use energy in our homes, the report argues that an EPC should be valid for five years to provide more up-to-date advice and information for homeowners.

The current headline EPC rating is based on the cost to heat and light the home. While this will remain an important metric to report on the certificates, moving to a new set of headline ratings is key, including a stable measure of energy efficiency.

Government should enable more of the detailed data collected to produce an EPC to be used to plan retrofit while respecting homeowners’ privacy and data protection.

Domestic Energy Assessors – who visit homes to collect the data for EPCs – play a key part in ensuring their accuracy. A review and strengthening of the training and continuous professional development requirements for domestic energy assessors could build trust and confidence in the system and ensure that assessors can help drive the net zero transition of our housing stock.

40% of homes do not have an EPC. Often these are the least energy-efficient homes which have not been recently improved or changed hands. Official development of a provisional EPC rating for these homes could help local authorities and homeowners identify retrofit opportunities and plan grants and support.

In 2022 just 5% of people had used the advice on the certificate to improve their home. By making this advice easier to use, the EPC can become a much more widely used and trusted tool, particularly as millions of households transition to low-carbon heating over the next decade.

Gillian Charlesworth, chief executive of the Building Research Establishment said: “Energy Performance Certificates cover 60% of UK homes and are a key source of information used in planning retrofit programmes and in government policies. But too often home buyers and sellers see the certificates as just a bureaucratic necessity.

“With targeted reforms, the government can ensure the EPC can really achieve its potential, as a trusted starting point for advice and information on how we can all make our homes better.

“The transition to clean energy in homes is starting to gather pace; the last few months have seen an upsurge in interest in installing heat pumps. Whether it’s clean heat, upgrading insulation, solar panels or other modern energy technologies, reforms to the EPC to make it more up-to-date, accurate and usable will be key to supporting homeowners play their part in the journey to net zero.

“We urge policymakers to read this report and consider its recommendations as a way of driving the decarbonisation of the UK’s domestic building stock.”

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