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Approximately 50% of all UK carbon dioxide emissions are generated in serving the energy needs of buildings. Reducing energy consumption in buildings is a key objective of national government.

Excessive energy consumption is not only an environmental concern, but also raises economic concerns, as energy prices have increased significantly in recent years and there are approximately 4.5 million households living in fuel poverty. 

Climate Change Act and planning policy

The Climate Change Act 2008

The Climate Change Act sets legally binding long-term targets to cut the UK’s carbon, ultimately leading to an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. The UK is the first country in the world to set a legally binding target of this nature.  It also creates a framework for developing the ability to adapt to future climate change impacts.

National planning policy framework

The national planning policy framework aims to make sustainable development integral in the planning system. Local planning authorities should adopt strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

Planning should help provide resilience to the impacts of climate change and support the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure. To help achieve this, local planning authorities should support efficiency improvements to existing buildings, and, help increase the amount of renewable low carbon energy supply. 

Increasing Energy Efficiency  

To increase energy efficiency and encourage the use and supply of renewable low carbon energy sources, local authorities should recognise the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy generation from renewable or low carbon sources.

They should promote energy from renewable and low carbon sources and identify opportunities where developments can draw energy from decentralised, renewable or low carbon energy supply systems and for co-locating potential heat customers and suppliers. 

The NPPF reflects the 2010 building regulations Part L. This has been introduced to deliver a 25% reduction in regulated CO2 emissions from a new building compared to the same building built under Part L 2006. 

EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

The EU Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings came into force in January 2006, with the aim of reducing energy use and associated emissions from the built environment throughout Europe. 

Each country within the European Union will set minimum standards for energy efficiency in buildings, including the consideration of alternative energy technologies for new buildings and the improvement of the energy performance of existing buildings when renovations are carried out. In the UK, these requirements are being addressed through building regulations and revisions of Part L. 

From 1st October 2008 the Directive required all landlords and property owners to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) when they construct, sell, lease or modify a building. They must also ensure that air conditioning systems with an output of greater than 250kW have received an energy inspection by 4th January 2009.

ECC - BP - energy efficiency rating

Only accredited companies can provide EPCs. By complying with legislation and following the recommendations supplied with the EPC on how to improve energy efficiency, building owner's can reduce energy bills and cut carbon emissions. 

From 1st October 2008, public authorities and institutions occupying buildings with a floor area over 1000m2 and visited by a large number of the public must put on view a Display Energy Certificate (DEC). DECs show the actual energy usage of a building, the operational rating, and help the public to understand the energy efficiency of a building.

ECC - BP - display energy certificate

A DEC is always accompanied by an advisory report that lists cost effective measures to improve the energy rating of the building. DECs are valid for one year whilst the advisory report is valid for seven years. 

There are significant differences between an EPC and a DEC.  The EPC, which is required by the building control body before they can provide the completion certificate, is a predictive assessment of how the building performs against the building regulations Part L. 

However, Part L does not take account of all the energy consumed in a building, so neither does the EPC.  The EPC relates to the ‘regulated’ energy loads, which are those addressed by Part L. 

The DEC reports the actual meter readings taken after 12 or more months of building operation, so the DEC includes both the ‘regulated’ loads addressed by Part L and the ‘unregulated’ loads not addressed by Part L. 

For homes this detail is not significant as the ‘unregulated’ loads, for example energy used by white goods, are relatively small.  However, for buildings such as schools, offices or hospitals, the unregulated loads can actually be greater than the loads considered by Part L. This should be kept in mind the next time a high-profile building appears with A or B rated EPC, but only a D or E rated DEC.

The Energy Efficiency Directive 2012

The 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive aims to increase energy efficiency at all stages of delivery and final consupmtion. The EU has set itself a target of 20% energy savings by 2020 when compared to projected use in 2020.

The Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006 promotes renewable energy sources, making it cheaper and easier for people to generate their own energy. It requires the government to submit an annual report to parliament regarding current levels of greenhouse gas emissions and the efforts being made to reduce them. It also introduces targets for the take up of the microgeneration of energy.