Earlier this month, controversial Tory MP Zack Goldsmith called for amendment of the Energy Bill to require Display Energy Certificates (DECs) to be extended to all commercial buildings rather than just public buildings over 1000m2, as it is now. But what’s all the fuss about and what will it mean for businesses if Goldsmith gets his way?
The Government wants us all to use less energy and cut carbon emissions and in 2008 it introduced DECs in response to the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which all EU member states had to implement by January 2009.
DECs are based upon actual energy usage of a building (not the business/es therein) and are designed to increase transparency about the energy efficiency of public buildings. The certificate looks similar to the energy labels provided on electrical appliances such as fridges and freezers and uses a similar scale for energy efficiency: from A to G (A being the most efficient and G the least).
The certificate is valid for one year and is accompanied by an Advisory Report (AR), which is valid for seven years. The advisory report is designed to help building owner/occupiers to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings so that future DECs show a better rating. There are financial penalties for not displaying the certificates but local authorities are responsible for enforcement so the scheme is largely self-policing.
The fuss is because non-dwellings are responsible for almost 20 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption and carbon emissions. All well and good but public buildings only account for a percentage of that so, unless commercial buildings are brought into line, it seems rather ineffective. If they were, businesses would benefit from the energy savings initiatives that landlords would be forced to implement as a result and the improved carbon footprint. Business tenants would also be able to lean on landlords and put pressure on them to improve building energy efficiency or accept reduced rents for less efficient buildings.
I’d like to see it go one step further, however, and widen the DECs scheme to include energy security of buildings whereby, in addition to improving energy efficiency, landlords would be forced to take measures (such as implementation of building-wide power protection plans) to secure electricity supply for their tenants. Energy efficiency and energy security (power protection) have to go hand in hand in today’s dynamic and always on business environments and DECs seem the most appropriate platform for enforcement.