Rishi Sunak plans to delay increasing mandatory EPC levels for private landlords, according to a story by Sky News.
The current proposals mean that all new tenancies will be required to reach EPC C or above by 2025, with the date for all existing tenancies set at 2028. A government source told the broadcaster that the timeline is to be changed, as well as overhauling EPCs themselves. They said:
We remain committed to our environmental objectives but we cannot overburden landlords facing cost of living pressures…we support delaying requirements for new minimum energy efficiency requirements in the private rented sector.More generally, we recognise that the EPC system which was designed as an informational tool to meet the requirement of EU membership, needs fundamental reform. Further details will be set out as soon as possible.
This follows similar comments to the Telegraph from Michael Gove last weekend:
My own strong view is that we’re asking too much too quickly. We do want to move towards greater energy efficiency, but just at this point, when landlords face so much, I think that we should relax the pace that’s been set for people in the private rented sector, particularly because many of them are currently facing a big capital outlay in order to improve that efficiency.
Tom Lowe, Founding Director at Thermal Storage UK, has responded to the reports highlighting the need for flexibility within EPCs, saying:
Everyone who working in energy knows that EPCs need improving. This is why the UK government started work on EPC reform in 2018 and committed to an EPC Action Plan in 2020. It is good that the UK government is going to finish the job. That includes moving to SAP 11 and the Future Homes Standard before the next election. And committing to a clear timeline for improving energy efficiency of rental properties.
I’m in the camp of improving rather than replacing EPCs as a tool for building decarbonisation. Any assessment of a building’s energy efficiency requires thinking about the building fabric and technologies, rather than the energy bills of the current occupants. The assessment should be non-invasive, e.g. no drilling into walls looking for insulation. And the assessment should be reasonably cheap. EPCs meet those criteria.
But many further improvements are possible. For instance, the software model behind EPCs does not currently consider the flexibility of a home. This means EPCs ignore the flexibility of batteries, thermal storage, EV charging or heat pumps. That is a problem as we electrify heat and transport. It is also too bureaucratic to add new technologies to those listed in the software. Thermal Storage UK has raised this with the UK government a number of times over the last 18 months and it’s good to see the likes of Octopus Energy support this
Andrew Parkin, Chair of PEPA, has also responded:
It’s been two and a half years since the UK government consulted on minimum energy standards for private rental sector houses.
However, the government still hasn’t responded to the consultation.
Michael Gove’s comments on the current standards being too harsh on landlords highlight the need for the government to take action. It’s hard to understand how the government can be so relaxed on climate change when parts of the Mediterranean are on fire due to human-made climate change.
It’s time for the UK government to step up and take action on climate change by setting regulations that will help reduce energy consumption in all buildings and not just the private rental sector.
Chris Venables, Political Director of Green Alliance, urged the government not to water down the plans, saying:
With millions of people on the front line of a cost-of-living crisis driven by sky-rocketing energy bills, it is alarming to see Sunak proposing to weaken already insufficient plans to make sure renters have well-insulated homes.
Letting landlords off the hook will only further risk the government missing its legally binding climate and fuel poverty targets, never mind playing politics with the lives of the elderly and the vulnerable as we head into another difficult winter.