Energy labels for homes to become compulsory

All homes sold in England and Wales from June next year will have to carry energy efficiency 'eco-labels,' housing minister Yvette Cooper said on Wednesday.

As part of the Government’s efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions from home energy use, an Energy Performance Certificate will be requried for all houses sold and bought, reflecting their energy efficiency and carbon emissions. An energy efficiency assessment will precede each sale, giving a label that will tell buyers how much energy will actually provide heating, hot water and lighting and how much the building will waste.

The labels, similar to those used for consumer goods from fridges to tourist accommodation under the voluntary EU eco-label scheme (see related story), will place the energy efficiency of each home on a scale of A to G.

It will also include practical advice on how to improve energy efficiency and cut carbon emissions through things like better insulation and micro-renewables.

The eco-label will become part of a new “Home Information Pack” that the Department for Communities is introducing to help reduce money wasted through failed transactions – which it currently puts at £1m a day – by providing information on the state of the property early on in the buying process.

The series of assessments the pack entails will itself cost around £600-700 plus VAT, according to the depertment. But “most of this cost is not new and is being met at present by both sellers and buyers,” the department assures, adding that the new measures will transfer more costs from buyers onto sellers.

Introducing the plans on Wednesday, Yvette Cooper said: “Given the growing challenge from climate change and rising energy costs, I think people should be entitled to this kind of information about the home they buy. You can get this kind of consumer information on fridges and washing machines, so why not on a home where the emissions – and the savings – are so much greater?

“By providing people with sound advice on how to improve energy efficiency this will help sellers and buyers who want to do their bit to cut carbon emissions as well as cutting their fuel bills too.”

Emissions from residential properties contribute around 30% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental groups Friends of the Earth and WWF welcomed the plans as an important contribution to cutting carbon emissions.

But while it said the plans would provide an “incentive for tackling the UK’s rising climate emissions,” FoE called for further measures, including a mandatory code for house-builders that would make all new properties carbon neutral. The NGO also called for action to reduce emissions from other sectors rather than relying on the actions of individuals.

FoE’s Germana Canzi said: “It is good that the Government has finally grasped the nettle on this issue but they must now go further and introduce a mandatory code to make new homes low carbon.”

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Chris Huhne MP welcomed the measures but said they should be accompanied by greener taxes: “More information is necessary but not enough. Simply assessing the performance of houses when they are being sold will do little to improve the efficiency of our housing stock.

“Assessments of energy efficiency need to be linked to fiscal incentives which encourage home owners to install energy efficiency measures and micro-renewables.”

European agreements require all homes for sale in the EU to carry energy certificates from 2009. France has said it will introduce its own compulsory eco-label for homes on July 1 this year.

Goska Romanowicz

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