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Brexit: will consumer energy savings survive?

According to official UK government statistics, the most cost-effective energy efficiency policy for every category of energy consumer covers energy-using products.

But it is clear that, regardless of the fuel bill savings forgone, there are many zealots who wish many of these product standards to be abolished in the UK: witness those vituperative stories regarding high-efficiency vacuum cleaners and energy saving lightbulbs – let alone the toasters that were never included in the EU rules – printed in the xenophobic Daily ExpressMail and Telegraph newspapers.

The financial savings are not stopping those determined, like the the Sun’s similar effort last year to say Up Yours to the EU, to demand a whole clutch of energy efficiency standards are now revoked.

According to the UK’s best selling newspaper its readers will be able to “see the light” best by “bringing back the incandescent lightbulbs, phased out by EU regs”. Never mind that changing these bulbs across our economy is one of the main reasons why UK electricity consumption has fallen by over 15 per cent over the past decade.

Similarly The Sun demands we should be “swapping weak EU-regulated vacuum cleaners for powerful ones”. And that we must have “dryer hair by avoiding EU energy rules on powerful hairdyers”.

Indeed this ‘Newspaper of Record’ is demanding that we must return to”using appliances free of energy constraints”.

Let us just stop there, and consider what doing what The Sun and the other deregulatory champions want, would mean. In practice, rather than in rhetoric.

Products policy covering electricity consuming producers is exclusively controlled by the European Union. Formal involvement with which the UK is set to sever two years from now.

The EU Ecodesign Directive establishes a framework under which manufacturers of energy-using products are obliged to reduce the energy consumption and other negative environmental impacts occurring throughout the product life cycle. The Energy Labeling Directive complements it, providing standardised product information for prospective consumers, under the familiar CE marking.

The genesis of both directives goes back 25 years, to 1992, when the European Single Market for products was first created – ironically with strong backing from a (then as now) Conservative UK government.

Its scope currently covers more than 40 product groups. Such as air conditioning equipment, ventilation units, computers and TVs, boilers, lighting, domestic white goods like fridges and washing machines.

Between them, these products had historically been responsible for around 40 per cent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions.

Official UK government figures show just how much the existence of these directives is saving all of us money on our electricity bills. This is worth repeating. We are dealing here with an environmental  policy that is actually saving us all a great deal of money every single year.

The current estimate is that these policies alone are already saving the average household some £67 a year. Given what is in the pipeline the official estimate for 2020 for each household’s electricity savings each year is £153, including VAT. That will be cutting the assumed average electricity bill by 20 per cent.

These are savings currently enjoyed by households that The Sun and its Little England allies seems to be perfectly content to see removed, in order to satisfy their xenophobic dogma.

What about the classic tabloid hero, white van man? He and his fellow small business entrepreneurs currently benefit even more from European products policy.

The savings for the average small business are reckoned currently to be £700 a year off electricity bills. To put that into context, the annual cost to such businesses of the UK’s unilateral Carbon Floor Price tax is £1,100. By 2020 the product policy will be delivering £1,700 off electricity bills for the average small business.

For larger businesses, of a size to be involved with the Carbon Reduction Commitment, the European product policy is now taking an average of £24,000 a year off electricity bills. By 2020 that average is officially reckoned to have soared to £62,000 annually. In contrast, the yearly cost to such businesses by 2020 of the UK government’s unique Contracts for Difference and Capacity Market Auctions policies is due to be £133,000.

What about large energy intensive industries, albeit ones that benefit from all Floor Price exemptions and compensations? Even they are making useful savings. Those with an average £6.4m electricity bill can reckon to be gaining £125,000 each year from these unsung product policies. By 2020 the bonus savings from European product policies is set to be worth some £432,000 a year to companies of this size.

As Brexit doesn’t take place until the financial year 1919/20, all these 2020 savings can reckon to be “in the bank.” But what happens after 2020? Particularly if the UK does quit any formal involvement with the European Single Market?

After all, it has up till now been the exclusive role of the European Commission to police implementation of product policy. Who will replace this role?

As the House of Lords energy and environment committee chair, Lord Robin Teverson, acidly observes, his committee has “found that effective enforcement of existing legislation would be crucial to overcome such ‘short-term vulnerabilities’.”

And of course, what will happen regarding the introduction of any new categories of products?

The Ecodesign Directive is a framework directive, meaning it does not directly set minimum ecological requirements. These are instead adopted through specific implementing measures for each group of products. They are adopted via the so-called comitology procedure, where implementing measures are based on EU internal market rules governing which products may be placed on the market.

Manufacturers who market any energy-using product covered by an implementing measure in the EU area have to ensure it conforms to the energy and environmental standards set out for the measure. And of course from 2019 UK manufacturers are set to be directly excluded from the process of negotiating these standards. In practice, the introduction of any new minimum requirement results in effectively banning all non-compliant products from being sold in the 28 Member States.

The UKIP 2015 manifesto certainly makes hostility to product energy standards clear. Before dismissing this fact, remember that UKIP’s was the only manifesto at the last General Election that now accurately reflects present government policy regarding the European Union.

Be warned. We will need to seriously guard against surrendering those ever-increasing savings on all our electricity bills, once we have “taken back control” of our energy-using product policy.

Andrew Warren is the Honorary President of the Association for the Conservation of Energy and Chairman of the British Energy Efficiency Federation

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Time to wake up to the reality

Amazement, shock and concern greeted the news that energy use has declined over the last 50 years. But will the Government finally catch on to the benefits of energy efficiency?

In September, Energy in Buildings & Industry’s Warren Report was headlined “The Silent Revolution in UK Energy Use”. In it, I revealed that over the past fifty years UK GDP wealth has increased by almost threefold while at the same time overall energy consumption across the economy has actually fallen (by about 5 per cent).

The level of interest in this simple juxtaposition of two trends, heading in opposite directions, was astonishing. I have been writing monthly columns on energy for over 30 years but I can honestly report that never before has a single column of mine stimulated quite so much interest.

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Consultation,Display Energy Certificates,Eric Pickles

The strange tale of the Secretary of State, the DECs, and the quiet consultation

Last Wednesday Communities Secretary Eric Pickles concluded an unusually swift and unpublicised (at least, by him) “public consultation” into whether there is any purpose in requiring Display Energy Certificates (DECs) for public buildings.

These are the A to G ratings which for the past seven years you should have expected to find exhibited “in a prominent position” in any of the 58,000 buildings occupied by the public sector, that you might be visiting. That means central and local government offices, libraries, sports centres, schools and colleges, hospitals and surgeries, museums, and so on.

This very Thursday – just six working days after his “public consultation” closed – Pickles is due to receive from his officials their considered conclusions. How do I know this?

I am the present chair of the British Energy Efficiency Federation. The membership of BEEF is made up of 18 of the trade associations most directly involved with the energy efficiency market: it was created by the then relevant Department back in 1996, and has continued to meet on a quarterly basis under the auspices, and in the offices, of whichever Department holds the energy efficiency brief (currently DECC).

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Demand Reduction,demand-side measures

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Let’s tip the balance back towards demand management

Reducing demand is better value than continuing to plough money into increasing energy production. So why do we continue to favour energy production?

In almost all circumstances, it is cheaper to avoid having to use energy than it is to produce it. This is a mantra with which most will be familiar: it has been enunciated by practically every objective strategic energy study for decades. Again this month the European Commission repeated it forcefully, in its magisterial paper setting out the case for a full Energy Union.

So, if demand management is much better value than generating new supplies of energy, why do our political leaders in the UK consistently set out to handicap energy saving – while energetically promoting production?

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Building Regulations,Eric Pickles,Zero Carbon Homes

Kick out this absurd policy

Buy a new home from a small company. And guarantee higher fuel bills, increasing emissions and general confusion between regulators and consumers. Sounds like a poor deal all round, both for the purchaser, and the marketing prospects for smaller construction companies?

I would agree. But nonetheless Communities Secretary Eric Pickles seems determined to foist this absurd proposal onto the marketplace as soon as possible.

Since 2006 it is has been agreed policy among the three major political parties that all new homes built from 2016 should emit zero carbon. This became legally binding (albeit by 2019) under the 2010 recast of the European Energy Performance of Buildings directive.

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Emissions Trading,EU:ETS

Stark choice ahead on emissions trading

The European Union emissions trading scheme – the EU:ETS – is a wonderfully bold experiment. A tremendous example of ten years of cross-border co-operation between 28 sovereign states, attempting to combat one of the greatest threats to mankind.

Even so, it needs to be altered dramatically. And if it really cannot be changed, so it can for the first time deliver real carbon savings, then it must be side-lined in importance – even (reluctantly) scrapped.

It is now exactly ten years since the trading scheme began operating. That it ever managed to do so was a great tribute to the dogged determination of those at the European Commission who – together with executives from a couple of the big power utilities – had championed it despite a background of incredulous scoffing at their apparent over-ambition by the Bush Administration in the US and business-as-usual mouthpieces across Europe.

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Energy Efficiency,European Commission

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The UK’s hidden agenda

Heads of European Governments have ignored all the evidence on energy efficiency and failed to set binding targets. What was behind the UK’s opposition?

Not that long ago, I recall visiting the offices of those overseeing UK energy policy, to be greeted with a large poster that read: “Real Men Build Power Stations.” How things have changed, you might think.

The International Energy Agency now routinely describes energy efficiency as “the first fuel” option. This March the heads of the 28 European Union governments unanimously agreed that increasing investment in energy efficiency should be the “first step” taken to reduce energy imports and increase energy security.

The day after he became Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey launched the Energy Efficiency Deployment Office, promising that improving energy saving would be his “number one priority.”

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Energy Efficiency,Energy Efficient Buildings,Heating,Non-Residential Buildings

We are all donkeys

On average, we are all 18 per cent wealthier in real terms than we were at the start of the century. On average, we are achieving this increase in affluence while using 14 per cent less energy than in 2000.

One way this turnaround has been achieved is by treating us all like donkeys.

There are three ways to get donkeys to do things. You wave a carrot in front of their noses. You bash them on the rump with a stick. And most importantly, around their ears, you rattle away on a tambourine. All to get the donkey’s attention.

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Energy Efficient Buildings,Zero Carbon Homes

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New hub needed to focus on existing buildings

One of the great triumphs of genuine private/public co-operation has been the work of the non-profit Zero Carbon Hub. Ever since its formation in 2008, it has proved to be the acknowledged entity to which everyone turns – companies and Ministers alike – to consider how best to progress towards ensuring that only the most energy and carbon-efficient new buildings are constructed.

But the vast majority of the buildings we shall be living and working in forty years from now have already been built. Precious few of these are even vaguely zero carbon; most waste bucketfuls of energy every day. By common consent we have one of the oldest, and certainly one of the least energy efficient, building stocks in the entire western world.

It is clear that one of the main challenges over the ensuing decades will continue to be to dramatically improve the energy performance of these buildings. This will need to happen at a rate long aspired to. But – as has been shown in the case of the flagship Green Deal Finance policy – right now falling woefully short of even its cost-effective (let alone technical) potential.

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Energy Efficient Buildings,Energy Performance Certificates,Non-Residential Buildings

Don’t let this first step become tied up in red tape

Back in 2011 the Government introduced legislation that Ministers promised would outlaw the letting of any F- or G-rated buildings from 2018. This month marks the conclusion of the
Government’s formal consultation detailing precisely how this potentially market-revolutionising policy will be delivered in practice.

The private rented sector is of growing importance in the residential sector. In the last 15 years the number of people renting from private landlords has increased from 10 to 18 per cent of all households.

That is a sizeable percentage. But nothing like as large as the proportion of the buildings in the non-residential sector that are rented out.

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