UK Local Authorities Miss Out on Energy Savings

OVER a third of all local authorities across England and Wales are in breach of the European Energy Directive, designed to improve the energy efficiency of their public buildings.

A recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the Property and Energy Professionals Association (PEPA) to all authorities in England and Wales, asking them to confirm their compliance with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) at the start of this year, revealed the problem.

The issue of the FoI request was taken after PEPA discovered that the UK Government was failing to track how millions of pounds of tax payer’s money, allocated to ensuring authorities complied with the directive, was actually being spent.

When asked directly if they comply with the European Directive, 58 percent of local authorities confirmed they do indeed comply, while 30 percent advised they were non-compliant and a further 12 percent did not answer the question.

Since August 1, 2007, local authorities were obliged to comply with the EPBD, which states that a Display Energy Certificate (DEC), which details a building’s energy consumption, should be on display in all public buildings with over 500m2 of floor space.

The UK Government allocated £3.4m in the 2008/9 tax year, and a further £1.9m each tax year since to assist local authorities to comply with the directive, which would then reduce the UK’s carbon emissions, and the energy costs for the local authorities.

Chairman of PEPA, Stephen O’Hara, commented: “What has become clear is that there is a total lack of understanding amongst non-compliant authorities of the potential for DECs to save both energy and money. What’s more, by flouting the regulations they are actually costing their tax payers money.

“It is unbelievable that the (UK) Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) sits on its hands in these times of austerity and watches local authorities fritter away money on high energy costs. It seems that the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, does not understand why improving energy efficiency is so vital, not just to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions, but for the economy.”

“What’s more, it remains an absurdity that local authorities are responsible for policing their own compliance with the European Directive when it comes to DECs. If Trading Standards Officers were to raise a fixed penalty notice of £200 on their own authority, the money would be deposited back into the account from where it came! As a result, where local authorities do not meet their own obligations under the EPBD regulations, absolutely nothing is done about it – this needs to change.”

PEPA now plans to undertake a detailed analysis of the results of the FoI exercise and will produce a report that highlights best practice amongst local authorities in the use of DECs, while identifying those authorities, which are wasting a golden opportunity to save tax payers money.

Picture of Council Offices by Pete Chapman [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday 22nd May 2013

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