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The UK's expert voice of energy efficiency
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    The Association for the Conservation of Energy has at last received Eric Pickles’ response to our threat of judicially reviewing his decision to reverse entirely the strong recommendations the government was making last spring, to widen the existing 'consequential improvements' concept to cover smaller buildings. Despite requesting – and receiving from us – an extension of an extra 17 days to prepare the response, it was nonetheless received later than agreed.

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    Having taken advice from Learned Counsel and our legal advisors, I can confirm that the Association for the Conservation of Energy will be proceeding with the judicial review process against Eric Pickles, regarding his complete volte face on implementing the " consequential improvements " section of his Part L building regulations consultation.

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    If the Government is to electrify our power generation then our appliances must become more efficient. And Government has to appreciate the absolutely critical area of electricity consumption - the products we use in our homes and at work. We have to ensure that only the most efficient products are installed, in order to make certain that we end up with lower fuel bills once we have decarbonised our electricity system. Responsibility for product policy should be moved from the environment Department to the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

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    Today in the High Court Mr Justice Nichol ruled that we cannot judicially review the decision by Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, not to proceed with his proposal that homes which are expanded should make energy improvements to the existing building ("consequential improvements"). The judge ruled that Ministers are entitled to change their minds. He said that it was not relevant that 82 per cent of those responding had endorsed his original proposal.

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    ACE and Friends of the Earth have long been concerned about the poor standards of energy efficiency (and high concentrations of fuel poor and vulnerable households) in the private rented sector (PRS). The PRS is a rapidly growing part of the housing market. Of the 22.8m households in England in 2011, 4 million were privately rented (17.5% of the housing stock). This was an increase of 1.6m in only six years – and is the highest level since the early 1990s. Read ACE's and Friends of the Earth's response to CLG's review of property conditions in the PRS.

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    ACE has today joined with nearly 30 other civil society organisations in issuing a joint statement calling on the Government to lay without delay tough, enforceable regulations to introduce a minimum energy efficiency standard in the private rented sector. The sector has the highest proportion of the very worst homes (those in EPC Bands F and G) – with nearly half the households living in them suffering from fuel poverty. The Energy Act 2011 required the Government to bring forward regulations to introduce a minimum energy efficiency standard, expected to be set at Band E. However, these regulations look likely to be laid at least a year later than expected, leaving landlords and tenants alike facing uncertainty and confusion. We are therefore calling on the Government to lay the regulations as soon as possible, to specify that the standard will be Band E in all circumstances and to ensure that exemptions will be kept to an absolute minimum.

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    ACE has submitted written responses to The Department of Energy and Climate Change consultations on private rented sector energy efficiency regulations, for the domestic and non-domestic sectors respectively. Following a campaign by ACE and its allies, the Energy Act 2011 placed a duty on the Secretary of State to bring into force regulations to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in the domestic and non-domestic private rented sector in England and Wales.

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    One of the great triumphs of genuine private/public co-operation has been the work of the non-profit Zero Carbon Hub. Ever since its formation in 2008, it has proved to be the acknowledged entity to which everyone turns – companies and Ministers alike – to consider how best to progress towards ensuring that only the most energy and carbon-efficient new buildings are constructed. But the vast majority of the buildings we shall be living and working in forty years from now have already been built. Precious few of these are even vaguely zero carbon; most waste bucketfuls of energy every day. By common consent we have one of the oldest, and certainly one of the least energy efficient, building stocks in the entire western world. It is clear that one of the main challenges over the ensuing decades will continue to be to dramatically improve the energy performance of these buildings. This will need to happen at a rate long aspired to. But – as has been shown in the case of the flagship Green Deal Finance policy – right now falling woefully short of even its cost-effective (let alone technical) potential.

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    Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey is finally laying regulations before Parliament that are intended to bring the coldest and leakiest private-rented homes up to a minimum Energy Performance Certificate of Band E by April 2018. But today’s development does not go far enough. Given Britain’s status as the ‘Cold Man of Europe’, and that energy efficiency support for households, particularly fuel poor households, has collapsed this winter, we cannot stress enough that the regulations have got to go further.

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    The Government has today published its new Fuel Poverty Strategy for England. While welcoming the intention to bring the homes of the fuel poor up to a high energy efficiency standard, we believe the target date of 2030 is far too long to wait. We also believe that all low income households – not just those that are fuel poor today – should be improved.

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    The All-Party Parliamentary Group for the private-rented sector launched an inquiry into energy efficiency in private-rented housing. Along with Friends of the Earth and Citizens Advice, ACE led a widely supported civil society campaign in 2010/2011, which led to the 2011 Energy Act placing a duty on the Secretary of State to introduce a minimum energy efficiency standard for private rented housing from April 2018 at the latest.

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    Our response to the consultation highlights: the uncertainty following the abandonment of the zero carbon trajectory; the missed opportunities with respect to driving higher rates of renovation; the low level of compliance with EPBD’s provisions and the virtual absence of enforcement; the question marks hanging over Display Energy Certificates; the need to make EPC data more widely accessible; and the need to plug skills and capacity shortages in the energy services and energy auditing sectors.

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    The Treasury was strongly criticised this week after a Panorama investigation revealed that over 9,000 people in England and Wales died from living in cold homes last winter.

    Yet Government support for energy efficiency has crashed by 80%. Making homes energy efficient is considered by experts as the only long term solution to fuel poverty, which affects over 4 million households in the UK.

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    DECC recently published statistics on the take-up of energy efficiency measures by households during 2015. In this blog post, we unpick some of the data, exploring the good, the bad and the frankly baffling within the rich data set provided. How did policy announcements affect the market? Have whole-house energy assessments unlocked energy efficiency opportunities? And could we have found the elusive answer for improving the private rented sector?

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    In April, Bright Blue launched its Green Conservatism research project. One of the strands they are taking forward is on renewed home energy efficiency policy. We submitted our response to the stakeholder consultation in May.

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    We all know that there is no single ‘magic policy bullet’ that will support the growth of a self-sustaining market for energy efficiency investments, and that a jigsaw of policy pieces is needed to build the necessary framework. This is the first in a series of blogs looking at ACE’s new policy tracker, and it considers commercial buildings. It asks, are all the jigsaw pieces in place? What more can we do easily? And what is going to be a little more difficult?

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    We welcome the Scottish Government’s consultation on the topic of minimum energy efficiency standards in the Private Rented Sector and consider that this is a vital first step to ensure that all homes in Scotland are energy efficient, enabling tenants to be warmer in their homes and use less energy. Fuel poverty remains a significant issue in Scotland, and across the wider UK, particularly in the private rented sector. Increasing the energy efficiency of these properties is key to reducing this problem. This consultation on standards for the private rented sector represents an important step towards realising this vision.