Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has thrown his weight behind Housing Secretary Michael Gove’s proposals to delay deadlines for EPC improvements in the private rental sector.
In what appears to have been a Whitehall briefing to the Financial Times, unnamed government officials is quoted as saying the entire system of energy performance certificates required “fundamental reform”.
The officials told the FT that the Prime Minister and the government supported delaying a deadline for landlords in England and Wales to meet mandatory efficiency standards beyond the proposed date of April 2025.
And they said they EPC system had been originally designed “as an informational tool to meet the requirement of EU membership” and therefore was subject to likely reform now that Britain was ousted the EU.
Earlier this week Sunak - building on the surprise Tory victory in the Uxbridge by-election - said he did not wish to “hassle” voters or “add to” household bills at a time of high inflation by adding costs linked to the environmental agenda. The UK is committed to hitting a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.
On Tuesday ministers announced that they were delaying a new £1.7 billion-a-year UK recycling scheme until after the 2024 General Election following warnings that it would increase already high food and drink prices.
Some 48 hours earlier - in a Sunday Telegraph interview - Gove gave strong hints that the EPC rental timetable would change.
The paper said: “Mr Gove admitted that in his own department the government was ‘asking too much too quickly’ of landlords, who will be banned from renting out their homes unless they pay for green measures such as insulation and heat pumps to meet a new minimum energy efficiency threshold by 2028. Citing existing financial pressures on landlords [Gove] added: ‘I think we should relax the pace.’"
In recent days Rightmove revealed that 16 per cent of homes listed on the portal had previously been let privately, with concerns over stricter Energy Performance Certificates now the main reason for landlords selling.
Back in February research showed that Energy Performance Certificates were inaccurate at best, useless at worst, and easily rigged.
A Sunday Times report revealed the results of sophisticated and highly detailed research by a firm called CarbonLaces. The firm claimed EPCs overestimate energy use by up to 344 per cent yet they remained a key part of current and expected legislation affecting landlords and other home owners.
CarbonLaces compared the EPCs of more than 17,000 homes with their actual use, as logged by smart meters every half hour for at least 300 days, to calculate their energy bills.
The Sunday Times reported: “The average metered gas and electricity use for all the properties studied was 125kWh per square metre a year — 91 per cent lower than what their EPCs claim (239kWh/m2/yr).
“The lower the EPC rating, the bigger the overestimation. For properties with the worst rating of G, EPCs estimate they use 656kWh/m2/yr. Yet their smart meters show they use only 151kWh/m2/yr — a 344 per cent gap.”
This inaccuracy is “quite staggering” said Madhuban Kumar, the founder of CarbonLaces.