Getting our energy labels in order

Following the recent enlightening episode of the BBC’s ‘This Week’ featuring financial journalist Martin Lewis, I would like to understand other people’s thoughts on what I perceive to be misleading energy label statements relating to heating and hot water boiler efficiencies. Since 2005, UK consumers have been mandated to buy condensing ‘A-rated’ boilers. UK Building regulations currently ‘downgrade’ these to B, and in reality, they’re nearer to C – or 75% efficiency – not the 92% level that consumers are led to believe.

Over the past three years, this issue has led to over £1b being wasted on unnecessary gas bills as successive Governments have deliberately misled the public and all the while energy prices have continued to rise. It is this problem that needs to be considered and resolved especially as more of the UK population is set to enter fuel poverty.

Governments across Europe have created legislation that promotes carbon savings. However, this is not the same asenergy savings.  Carbon savings are derived from the sale of energy labelled products, including ‘A-rated’ heating and hot water boilers. As such, many of these carbon savings are derived from idealised laboratory tests that unfortunately do not represent the efficiency levels achieved in real-world use.

For example, the majority of UK homeowners currently use gas boilers for their heating and hot water – specifically condensing boilers, as mandated by the Government. But ironically, condensing boilers are penalised in UK Building Regulations for condensing. This is because condensing is a byprocess of a boiler producing lukewarm water which is treated as waste – you can’t shower or heat your home in warm water.

Some five years ago, I invented a new category of patented energy saving technology called the ‘GasSaver’. Now recognised in UK Building Regulations as ‘Passive Flue Gas Heat Recovery’, this technology can save upward of £150 a year in gas and water savings by recovering the waste hot exhaust gases from modern boilers to pre heat the cold water before hot water generation.

If all the UK gas boilers that are installed (around 1.5 million this year) were fitted with GasSaver technology, then collectively we would save around £400m annually in our gas bills. That’s more than £1b in three years and enough to run a UK power station!

Yet, according to the head of energy efficiency at OFGEM, the problem with GasSaver technology is that it saves too much gas, embarrassing the regulations agreed between Government and industry. Consumer energy bills will only fall when the needs of British families are put above industry regulations which protect bad business and result in unnecessary waste of energy and unnecessarily high energy bills for householders.

A senior politician admitted to me at a meeting at Portcullis House, Westminster, that the Government’s promotion of renewable technologies was not for the claimed energy savings, but to invigorate the industry to invent energy saving products. Apparently it’s not enough that we at Zenex Technologies have already done this – “you’re the only one and we won’t promote that.”

My analogy would be, imagine the Government had told you that an old vacuum cleaner is 91% efficient and handed you a grant to buy one, who in that case would buy a Dyson? No one, I suspect…

The idealised testing of heating and hot water boilers means that their efficiency is overstated by around 20%. Now, this might mean that the industry is not put ‘under too much pressure’ (in the words of a senior DECC official), but it also blocks consumer awareness that they can make important water and gas savings  through improved home energy efficiency if they only knew about GasSaver technology.

The key to reducing consumer energy bills is to focus on seasonality and demand-led regulation, with outcome based policies at the heart of new legislation. Think back to the Longitude Act of 1714: the monetary incentive to invent a solution to accurate navigation at sea led to lives being saved and ships becoming a successful British economy. It’s time now for the Government to stop being constrained by European energy labelling policies that artificially protect business in favour of identifying innovators who can create the next step change in energy efficiency.

Today this is not possible. As an inventor of patented energy saving technology that undermines the current regulatory labelling schemes, it saddens me to think that consumers are being misled as to their choices and paying on average around £150 a year more than is necessary for their energy needs.

Where is the justice in that?

Chris Farrell

Topics: edie
Tags: | DECC | energy bills | Energy Efficiency | Fuel poverty | gas | ofgem | population | technology | water
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