Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Energy Saving Trust (EST) (DHB 15)

  The Energy Saving Trust is the lead organisation for promoting energy efficiency to households within the UK. Energy efficiency has social benefits (alleviating fuel poverty), environmental benefits (tackling climate change) and economic benefits (saving money for the householder, and for the nation as a whole). We are therefore happy to see legislation that will lead to an improvement in the energy performance of housing. From this perspective, our views on the draft Housing Bill are as follows:

  Overall: The Housing Bill has the potential to lead to significant improvements in domestic energy efficiency, with the Home Information Pack in particular leading to a massive increase in energy efficiency activity. We therefore support the intentions of the Bill, and look forward to its being enacted with its major provisions intact.

  Part 1 Housing Conditions: We support the introduction of a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), that will more accurately reflect the quality of a home than did the fitness standard. Cold, damp accommodation constitutes one of the highest health and safety risks for a householder (as reflected in the HHSRS)—It contributes to an excess winter mortality within the UK of some 40,000 per annum, and many more illnesses and home accidents (falls, etc.). We hope that the new HHSRS system will lead to better management of the problem.

  Parts 2-4 Licensing: We support the attempt to license HMOs, and to allow the licensing of private sector landlords where appropriate. Such accommodation accounts for some of the worst performing housing within the UK, in energy terms—Some 11% of the UK's four million or so fuel poor are housed in these sectors. Yet, owing to issues relating to property management and ownership, these very people are the most difficult to reach with energy efficiency grants, advice, and other forms of assistance.

  It is therefore important that the energy performance of the property is taken into account in licensing schemes. Unfortunately, the draft Bill does not provide reassurance on this point. It refers to "home condition," but in the past—and indeed, later on in the Bill and in ODPM's associated consultation on the Home Information Pack—the term "home condition" has been deemed not to include energy efficiency. We therefore propose the following addition on the scope of licensing:

  Clause 65 line 38: insert c) impose energy efficiency requirements

  Clause 86 line 11: insert c) impose energy efficiency requirements

  Part 5 Home Information Packs: We support the introduction of mandatory home information packs as part of the home purchase process. Government, the Energy Saving Trust, energy suppliers, and others currently go to great effort to reach people with the energy efficiency message, and to direct them to the best course of action. The EST's network of Energy Efficiency Advice Centres alone services over half a million households a year with consumer-friendly, personalised advice, that is proven to be highly effective. The Home Information Pack could make this job a lot easier; home purchase is one of the major trigger points for home improvement, and some three million homes are sold annually. Therefore, an energy efficiency report within the pack—as set out in the draft Bill—has the potential massively to accelerate activity under the UK's climate change and fuel poverty programmes.

  The ODPM consultation on the contents of the Home Information Pack and the associated energy efficiency assessment suggests the consideration of the full energy efficiency performance of the property (including insulation and heating), and the provision of tailored advice (rather than less effective standardised information). Nevertheless, EST would be reassured if the legislation itself explicitly required these measures, i.e:

  Clause 144 line 30, insert: c) … the energy efficiency of the property, including building services, and property-specific advice for improvements

  Finally, the Energy Saving Trust has developed, on behalf of Government, a Homes Energy Efficiency Database (HEED), in which information on energy efficiency measures is compiled from a variety of sources (energy suppliers, EEACs, etc.). HEED will help build up a picture of progress on energy efficiency over time and by area; help local authorities with their reporting under the Home Energy Conservation Act (HECA); and enable efficient targeting of energy efficiency initiatives. The systematic provision of energy efficiency information from the Home Condition Report databank to HEED would be very useful to further these objectives. It would be helpful if the Housing Bill could ensure that Data Protection issues do not prevent the provision of energy efficiency information to HEED.

  It is very important for the cause of energy efficiency that the Housing Bill is enacted on this basis. European legislation (the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive) requires the UK Government to introduce energy efficiency assessments upon purchase, by 2005. If the current opportunity is foregone, there is every likelihood that the process for complying with the Directive will be rushed and inadequately implemented, with households, industry, and the environment all losing out.

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