Effectiveness of energy performance rules 'uncertain'

The Government is relying heavily on building regulations to deliver its targets for saving energy in homes despite knowing little about whether the construction industry is complying with them, MPs have warned.

The Government is relying heavily on building regulations to deliver its targets for saving energy in homes despite knowing little about whether the construction industry is complying with them, MPs have warned.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said the effectiveness of the regulations on energy performance was "uncertain" as little was known about the implementation of them.

It said more than 80 per cent of the expected energy savings by 2020 came from them and obligations on suppliers, whose achievement was outside direct departmental control.

The committee also said building control officers were not prioritising enforcement of the regulations and called on the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Householders were confronted with a "confusingly wide range of advice" on energy efficiency from the Government, energy suppliers and others, and simpler ways to communicate the energy performance of appliances should be used, such as a traffic light system or a website to compare performance.

While energy consumption in the home fell between 2004 and 2007, the UK still lagged behind other European countries.

Houses were still using 8 per cent more energy than in 1990 and usage would rise as more homes were built and people used more electrical appliances, the MPs said in their latest report.

They said consumption had shown an "encouraging" fall but the UK still lagged behind other European countries. To meet economy-wide energy consumption targets, household energy consumption must fall by 11 per cent by 2010 and a further 2 per cent by 2016, compared with 2001-05 levels.

The committee called on DCLG to "check that all building control officers are fully trained and are using their powers effectively to enforce the energy savings requirements in the building regulations."

It added: "Little is known about the extent of compliance with the energy saving parts of current building regulations, so the adequacy and effectiveness of the regulations on energy performance in practice is uncertain.

"The Department for Communities and Local Government should set out a clear plan for testing energy performance routinely on a sample basis to check on compliance, the effectiveness of the buildings control regime and, ultimately, the effectiveness of building regulations in delivering reduced energy consumption."

The committee also said departments were not gathering enough data from homes to evaluate the impact of energy reduction programmes on behaviour.

Edward Leigh, Tory chairman of the committee, said: "I am concerned that not enough is known about whether the building regulations for new houses are actually being complied with and delivering the energy saving performance promised."

"The seemingly good news that household energy consumption fell between 2004 and 2007 is confounded by two sobering facts.

"One is that households in 2007 were still using 8 per cent more energy than back in 1990. The second is that household energy use will continue to rise, a function of the need for extra housing, rising expectations about how warm dwellings should be and an ever rising use of electrical appliances."

But "much more" needed to be done to achieve the big reductions needed in energy use and people had to be persuaded to stop paying "lip service" to concerns over climate change, he added.

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