Government consults on dropping display energy certificates for public buildings

The government has announced proposals that could see display energy certificates (DECs) for 54,000 public buildings in England and Wales abolished. In the new consultation, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said it was considering “removing the legal requirement” for DECs in public buildings such as town halls, swimming pools and schools.

The government suggests DECs could be abolished on the basis that current regulations may have “gold-plated” EU requirements, ie, exceeded the requirements of EU legislation when transposing directives into UK law. The consultation quotes a government study showing that energy consumption fell by 2% more in public buildings with DECs than in comparable private sector buildings (between 2008 and 2009).

Since 2008, all public buildings over 1,000m² have been required to have a DEC, which shows the energy performance of the building based on its actual annual energy consumption and the CO₂ emissions that result from that energy use. Buildings with a total floor area of between 500m² but below 1,000m² are required to have a DEC every 10 years. When the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) moved into its new headquarters at 3 Whitehall Place in 2008 it received a G rated DEC – the lowest. By 2012 it had improved this to a DEC rating of C. The department estimated that it had saved around £156,000 in 2011/12 on energy bills as a result.

John Alker, acting chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said in response to the consultation: “Any suggestion of scrapping DECs for public buildings simply beggars belief. Government time and again trots out the mantra of not ‘gold-plating’ EU requirements to minimise administrative costs, but completely misses the potential benefits that going further offers.

“There are clear examples – including the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s own headquarters – where DECs have helped public bodies to reduce their energy use and slash bills by an amount that hugely outweighs the administrative costs.

“Rather than rowing back on DECs, government needs to ensure they are better enforced, with a view to extending them beyond public buildings.”

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