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Posts Tagged ‘Eric Pickles’

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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DCLG,Display Energy Certificates,Eric Pickles,Public Buildings

Our response to CLG consultation on Display Energy Certificates (DECs)

ACE has responded to CLG’s consultation on ‘Display Energy Certificates: current regime and how it could be streamlined and improved‘. You can read our response here, and a summary of our response below.

When Display Energy Certificates (DECs) were first introduced, it was because CLG themselves identified that they were a) more appropriate for display in public buildings than Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and b) more cost-beneficial.

There is evidence referred to in the consultation itself, that DECs drive energy savings. There is also clear evidence from abroad, that regular operational ratings (of the kind contained in DECs) drive significant energy savings in the buildings in which they are used and displayed.

To remove schools and universities from the DEC regime totally contradicts the spirit of the recast Energy Performance of Buildings directive. Its intention is for DECs to apply to all buildings occupied by public authorities and also all buildings frequently visited by the public (the directive cites “shops and shopping centres, supermarkets, restaurants, theatres, banks and hotels” as examples). Schools and universities fall into both these categories, and the directive’s implication that they have to be included could not be clearer. Many more buildings should have been included as well, which is why the Government had intended in 2011 to extend DECs to the types of commercial buildings listed above.

The public sector should lead by example. The recast Energy Performance of Buildings directive states that “the public sector […] should lead the way in the field of energy performance of buildings” and “should set an example by showing that environmental and energy considerations are being taken into account and therefore those buildings should be subject to energy certification on a regular basis”. To remove or scale back the DEC regime would fly in the face of these requirements.

Recent analysis by University College London shows that 8,500 buildings with continual DECs over three years and larger than 1,000m2 achieved 3% annual energy savings in 2011 compared to 2009. In our estimation, this is roughly equivalent to £18m savings. If all 42,000 large buildings with DECs achieved the same saving, the total would be £89m. The total cost of the DECs regime is £7.8m, one eleventh of these savings. It is likely that DECs were a significant factor in starting these buildings on their energy management journey, which may well not have occurred in their absence. For every £1 saving on the DECs regime that CLG could achieve by abolishing it, the Department is putting at risk up to £11 of savings already achieved, and countless additional savings which an effective DECs regime would continue to drive. Furthermore, the savings calculated exclude the value of carbon savings achieved, employment and other spill-over benefits.

What CLG is proposing is to abolish (or severely truncate) a DEC regime which is proven to drive energy savings in public buildings and therefore make savings to the public purse. Far from freeing up resources for frontline services, abolishing DECs would at best reduce any energy cost savings being achieved and at worst enable the public sector to hide their wastefulness from the taxpayer and encourage profligacy. At a time of increasing pressure on public budgets and the need for more transparency to better account for public spending, the proposals to abolish or truncate a DEC regime which demonstrably saves far more money than it costs to run is plain stupidity.

The regime can be streamlined and improved, and a proper engagement and consultation exercise should be undertaken to find the best ways of doing so. As it stands, the current consultation, which has not even deigned to assess the benefits of the regime alongside its costs, is meaningless.

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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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DCLG,Display Energy Certificates,Eric Pickles,Public Buildings

Is Eric Pickles implementing a scorched earth policy ahead of the election?

Today, the Department for Communities and Local Government published a consultation which proposes to abolish Display Energy Certificates in England and Wales. DECs show actual energy consumption of public buildings on an A to G rating scale and need to be prominently displayed.  They are required annually for public buildings over 1,000m2, and every 10 years for buildings between 500m2 and 1,000m2. So far, 54,000 public buildings have them.

They raise public awareness of energy consumption in public buildings, make the sector more accountable for their energy consumption to tax-payers, and act as a driver and tool to reduce energy consumption in buildings and convince building owners to invest. The rating on a DEC can be improved by both energy efficiency works and by getting building users to cut back on unnecessary energy use (Energy Performance Certificates don’t register the latter). According to a study cited in the consultation itself, public buildings with DECs reduced their energy consumption by 2% more than their private sector counterparts between 2008 and 2009, just one year into their introduction. Little surprise that in 2011, David Cameron promised to extend the requirement for DECs to buildings in the commercial sector.

Despite this rollout to the private sector being supported by the CBI and the British Property Federation, Government reneged on that promise. Now they are proposing to row back to an extent that beggars belief. CLG says that abolishing DECs would save public authorities £760,000 each year.

When the Department of Energy and Climate Change moved into Whitehall Place, its DEC had a rating of G. That caught our attention – and the attention of countless others who visited the building.  The unflattering spotlight being shone on the Department will have played its part in stinging them into action and they’ve since improved their building’s energy consumption to a rating of C, saving £156,000 annually in the process. In one building (yes, a fairly large one). One building out of 54,000. Five such cases would exceed CLG’s savings estimate. The Government should make good on its original promise and extend DECs to the commercial sector, not abolish them. This staggering case of money-saving myopia must be stopped in its tracks.

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Eric Pickles,Part L,Planning and Energy Act

From open to obdurate, one minister’s short journey

In 2008 Eric Pickles was chairman of the Conservative Party. In that role, he championed a wholesale conversion of the party’s environmental image, under the slogan “Vote Blue, Go Green”.

Now as Communities Secretary he is presiding over a Department that seems determined to undermine a whole range of sustainable energy measures – including seeking to repeal a key Act of Parliament that he was largely instrumental in placing upon the statute book.

Perversely this seems to be in direct defiance of the Prime Minister. Earlier this year David Cameron made a much-publicised seminal speech at the Royal Society. He was unequivocal. He pledged to make Britain the “most energy-efficient country in Europe.”

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consequential improvements,Eric Pickles,Judicial Review

Judicial review of “consequential improvements” decision fails

Today in the High Court Mr Justice Nichol ruled that we cannot judicially review the decision by Eric Pickles, the Community Secretary, not to proceed with his proposal that homes which are expanded should make energy improvements to the existing building (“consequential improvements”). He ruled that a government minister is entitled to make any policy decision he considers appropriate, provided he has “genuinely considered” representations made during the consultation. He said that it was not relevant that 82 per cent of those responding had endorsed his original proposal. There were a minority who had rejected the idea, and he was entitled to rule in their favour.

The judge ruled that Ministers are entitled to change their minds. Apparently this was the first time any organisation had ever sought to challenge through the courts why a government proposal had not gone ahead, a challenge that the judge accepted as legitimate.

We are very disappointed that as a result the £11bn worth of extra construction activity which Mr Pickles’s department originally identified as likely to be delivered by consequential improvements will not now be realised. Nor will the 130 million tonnes of CO2 lifetime savings be delivered. Nor will we see the extra 2.2 million Green Deals he forecast it would deliver.

CLG’s costs have been awarded against this Association.

I am very grateful to the hundreds of people who have approached us in support of our initiative. I am sorry we have not proved able to challenge this most perverse of all decisions successfully.

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consequential improvements,Eric Pickles,Judicial Review

Policy volte-face to come under the High Court spotlight

This summer I shall be in the High Court. My Association is judicially reviewing a decision taken by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. Such an action is appropriate if a minister is perceived as having acted irrationally, disregarding facts before them in a consultation that they themselves have initiated.

In January 2012 Mr Pickles launched a public consultation, which proposed that, when households erect extensions or convert garages, around ten per cent further of that cost should be spent on improving the energy efficiency of the original building.

Attached to the public consultation was the government’s official Impact Assessment, which examined the likely consequences of enacting these proposals. It identified well over £11bn in economic benefits to the economy. Plus the accrual of over 130m tonnes of lifetime carbon dioxide savings. Plus, in CLG’s estimate, some 2.2m Green Deals.

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consequential improvements,Energy Efficiency,Eric Pickles

Pickles’ bad faith at odds with Cameron’s objectives

The Prime Minister has set the challenge to his Cabinet: “I want Britain to be the most energy-efficient nation in Europe”. Sadly it seems that one member is consistently working in precisely the opposite direction.

Eric Pickles has been the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government ever since the Coalition took office almost three years ago. During that time, he has presided over, indeed sometimes personally made, a whole series of policy decisions undermining David Cameron’s declared objective.

The litany of failure is as consistent as it is long. Let me seek to enumerate just some of these failures where in each case Mr. Pickles seems wilfully to have sought to obstruct progress. This despite his having been the chairman of the Conservative Party who promoted the catchphrase “Vote Blue, Go Green.”

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consequential improvements,Eric Pickles,Judicial Review

Judicial review of Eric Pickles to go ahead

Having taken advice from Learned Counsel and our legal advisors, I can confirm that the Association for the Conservation of Energy will be proceeding with the judicial review process against Eric Pickles, regarding his complete volte face on implementing the “consequential improvements” section of his Part L building regulations consultation.

We intend to serve our formal documents in the High Court this Friday. On Learned Counsel’s advice we shall not be releasing the response received, late last week from Eric Pickles to our initial letter. We do intend though in our own document to point out the various admissions of errors which Mr Pickles has made already regarding his initial December 13 statement.

We want to see a speedy resolution of this matter, so that we can begin to see some of the benefits which Mr Pickles identified last year would accrue from implementing his original “consequential improvements” strategy, of £11 bn savings to the economy, 130 million lifetime tonnes of carbon dioxide, and 2.2 million more households benefiting from the Green Deal.

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Building Regulations,consequential improvements,Department for Communities and Local Government,Eric Pickles,Judicial Review

Statement on Eric Pickles Judicial Review threat

The Association for the Conservation of Energy has at last received Eric Pickles’ response to our threat of judicially reviewing his decision to reverse entirely the strong recommendations the government was making last spring, to widen the existing ‘consequential improvements’ concept to cover smaller buildings. Despite requesting – and receiving from us – an extension of an extra 17 days to prepare the response, it was nonetheless received later than agreed.

Whilst he rebuts our charge, Mr Pickles concedes that his December statement to Parliament was wrong in several ways. This included quoting completely inaccurate figures, and drawing conclusions from the wrong focus groups. He also fails to address the undeniable fact that 82% of respondents to his 2012 consultation endorsed the concept of extending consequential improvements.

We are meeting with Learned Counsel next Tuesday, and will make a further statement after that.

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