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GDAA proposes external monitoring of DEA Accreditation Schemes

 

GDAA proposes external monitoring of DEA Accreditation Schemes

 

 

 

In its three years of operating, GDAA has always been at the front, pushing for higher standards and higher fees for undertaking domestic energy assessments.  Recently, our work with Ofgem has confirmed something that we probably all knew – there are some cowboy DEAs out there.  Possibly there may also be some accreditation schemes that don’t apply the rules, intended to root out the cowboys, as effectively as others.  We know for certain that the accreditation schemes don’t all work to the same standards, in terms of how they audit, how they deal with complaints, and the service they provide to their DEAs.

 

 

 

GDAA thinks this is wrong.  It works to the detriment of DEAs  who want to do a good job – they are undermined by others who don’t work to the same standards.  This can include working for low fees, not spending long enough at the property to do a thorough job, and in the worst case, deliberately falsifying EPC data in order to get the result the ‘customer’ wants.  Such actions are not supported by the majority of professional DEAs, who want to do a good honest job for a fair price. 

 

 

 

GDAA believes that this has to stop.  Whilst this doubt about the accuracy and value of EPCs persists, Government is reluctant to place more emphasis on the EPC in policy.  We hear that the Bonfield Review may recommend linking housing taxes to the EPC rating of the property, a call we’ve heard many times before, and one that we strongly support.  We also hear that others are calling for mortgage lenders to take the EPC rating into account when offering a mortgage.  These, and other examples of new uses for EPC ratings, all require a reliable, trustworthy EPC rating for them to be acceptable to Government.

 

 

 

GDAA has therefore made a proposal to DCLG to help prevent this lowering of standards – “Improving EPC quality by external monitoring of Accreditation Schemes” – and DCLG are now considering incorporating our recommendations into EPBD changes.

 

 

 

Our proposal recommends that DCLG appoints an organisation to provide independent oversight of the Accreditation Schemes.  It reminds DCLG that the body tasked with oversight and standardisation must be independent of the Accreditation Schemes.  If it were not independent, it would continue the current system of Schemes checking themselves, and this would not deal effectively with the problems that we are already encountering.  We have suggested that GDAA’s network of DEAs, all of whom are also Green Deal qualified, would be in an excellent position to provide this independent oversight of the accreditation schemes.  Most importantly, we need a dialogue now about what has to happen to resolve these issues.  It may not be possible to solve them overnight, but we need to make a start.

 

 

 

We believe this is a bold solution to the problems our industry needs to overcome if the EPC is to fulfil its role in the country’s energy policy.   We told DCLG ‘We feel that this is the ideal time politically for the industry to address its known quality problems.  Dealing with these issues now would allow the necessary changes to be incorporated into new scheme operating requirements that are currently being developed.’  However, such a radical change won’t be accepted without major lobbying of DCLG - by our industry, and ideally, by others outside the industry, such as consumer groups, local authorities and MPs. 

 

GDAA has therefore made a proposal to DCLG to help prevent this lowering of standards – “Improving EPC quality by external monitoring of Accreditation Schemes” – and DCLG are now considering incorporating our recommendations into EPBD changes.

 

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Should the DEA upgrade be withdrawn?

In 2011 the DEA upgrade was introduced and any practicing DEA had to pass this examination to be able to continue working as a DEA.

Why was it introduced?

1) Because of a change to European Regulations

2) Because there were too many DEAs

3) To ensure it was used in Green Deal

The real reason was number 3 - DECC needed an assessment for Green Deal.  DCLG was concerned that the EPC was not fit for purpose and rather than use it, DECC would develop their own assessment. So they created an upgrade as a way of proving it would be fit for purpose, and because the step directly from the EPC skill level to Green Deal would have needed a level 4 or 5 qualification, the size of which would have deterred candidates from taking training.

So should it be withdrawn?

No, I would suggest it be replaced by another upgrade to enable the EPC assessment to be relevant and suitable for the additional uses it now has, and putting it in a better position to be used for other purposes. There have been repeated suggestions that Council Tax should be replaced with a charge associated with the EPC level, and more recently, the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) has stated that mortgage lenders could ‘significantly improve’ their costing estimates by using readily available data such as the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of properties.  This would allow buyers of better performing homes to borrow more, reflecting the fact that the lower fuel bills leaves more money in the purse to pay back the mortgage. *

Both of these new uses for the EPC would rely on high quality assessments provided by the best DEAs.

 

* http://www.elmhurstenergy.co.uk/news/2015/changing-market-attitudes

 

 

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The Bonfield Review

The Government has commissioned an independent review, led by Peter Bonfield, to look at standards, consumer protection and enforcement of energy efficiency schemes and ensure that the system properly supports and protects consumers. #BonfieldReview

But is the review involving the right people?

Are the people involved the cause of previous scheme failures?

Shouldn’t the views of those that have succeeded in delivering measures and systems be the ones to develop new policy, not just the big bosses of the big companies?

Am I just bitter that I haven’t been contacted yet?

These are harsh criticisms but I’ll explain my experiences and you can make your own conclusions.

In an interview in Construction Manager “Since being appointed in late July, Bonfield said he had already met with small-trader accreditation service TrustMark, and had been in touch with energy companies, mortgage providers, housing associations and DIY chains.”  Whilst the energy companies finance ECO, with money paid from their customers, they do not set the standards of delivery and they do nothing to protect the customers that have measures installed.  I would go as far as saying they harm vulnerable customers as they make it almost impossible for vulnerable people that qualify for ECO funding to be able to access it. So why are they the first to be contacted?

And my view of trade bodies isn’t much better.  There are some that have been very active over the last few months, recruiting large numbers of new paying members by saying they represent the industry and they are working with government to develop new policy. Where were they when their industry was busy installing measures and DECC started asking questions about quality of installations and consumer protection? Why are they only now addressing some of the issues that have been prevalent in the industry for decades? If PAS2030 wasn’t enough to ensure quality installations, then take action to improve quality – don’t wait until after the golden ticket has gone.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but as a Fellow in Manufacturing Management I have the skills to analyse a complex system and develop a solution. In September 2012 I was telling BRE that the industry needed software solutions to calculate the Carbon and lifetime savings for ECO, the Energy companies needed software to check, record, aggregate and report ECO to Ofgem. With the big six energy companies obligated to spend Billions of pounds there was an enormous opportunity to dominate this new market, so why isn’t BRE software the main ECO software? And why are BRE no longer a DEA accreditation scheme or Green Deal Certification body?  If the flagship organisation covering the built environment no longer wishes to be a player in Government led initiatives to improve the energy efficiency of our housing, what does this say about our future?

Only this week, Birmingham City Council has reported on their recommendation to close Birmingham Energy Savers, citing the Government’s failure to support Green Deal as the reason.  They have listed a number of issues, including:

– The lack of national marketing to drive demand for the uptake of the Green Deal.

– The time taken to complete the Green Deal process being extensive and complex.

– ECO subsidy was too low, requiring the householder to provide a much larger financial contribution to implement Green Deal measures.

– Government confirmation that Green Deal for businesses has been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

All of these issues need addressing, and we hope the Bonfield review finds real answers to the problems that have beset Green Deal, as illustrated by Birmingham Energy Savers.  To have a chance to do this, it must not fail to consider the views of all participants, not just the usual suspects. 

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