Changes on the way for Domestic Energy Assessments?
Posted by Linn Rafferty on 11 August 2016 at 2:05 pm
I am a co-director of the Green Deal Advisor Association (GDAA), originally established to explore opportunities for domestic energy assessors (DEAs) within the previous government’s Green Deal scheme. Recently, GDAA’s auditing work for Ofgem has confirmed something that we probably all knew; there are a few DEAs that don’t apparently care much about the quality of their work.
Last October, we went to talk to the Departement for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) about how to address this. We discussed how this issue may have arisen; rather than blame the DEAs for this, could it be the accreditation schemes that need to improve? Are there some accreditation schemes that don’t apply the rules, intended to root out poor performance, as effectively as others?
We know that the accreditation schemes don’t all work to the same standards, in terms of how they audit, and deal with complaints about, the DEAs registered with them. The sort of errors (accidental or deliberate) that affect the quality of the EPC can be easily missed by the present auditing procedures, whereby schemes are required to pick audit assessments at random. Whilst schemes are permitted to carry out additional audits, this has a cost that would have to be passed on to the DEA. Thus, any attempt to raise standards by better auditing by one scheme would simply mean their DEAs transfer to another scheme, and no improvement in quality would result.
DCLG initially responded by requiring all DEA accreditation schemes (currently there are 6 of them) to join a three month trial of a more targeted audit approach. In each month, 100 audits carried out by each scheme must be targeted, rather than chosen at random. Essentially, assessments that appear to have a high chance of being inaccurate are the target. After 100 targeted audits have been selected, the remainder will continue to be chosen at random, as per the present approach.
Schemes were given a list of items that, when present in the EPC, indicate a possibility of an incorrect assessment. These are items that ether are rarely seen, such as a cavity wall in a very old property, or could indicate a careless approach to the survey, such as recording ‘unknown’ instead of inspecting the level of insulation in the loft.
It’s in everyone’s interest that these audits are successful in identifying DEAs who don’t work to appropriate quality standards. That DEA can then be required to improve, perhaps via additional training. The burden of paying for such training falls on those that need it, which is so much fairer than simply requiring all DEAs to take an additional test (as has happened in the past, leading to some justified complaints from DEAs).
EPCs for homes are a legal requirement when the home is sold or let, so it’s important that they are accurate. In 2018 this becomes even more significant for rental properties, as landlords will eventually be prevented from letting a home that doesn’t achieve a minimum energy efficiency standard as measured by the EPC rating. It’s been suggested that landlords may wish to obtain an EPC for their rented properties before the requirement applies. They would then be warned if their property didn’t meet the standard before the law comes into force.
Although DCLG didn’t take action on everything that GDAA wanted, we were pleased that they decided to trial this improvement to EPC auditing. DCLG also hopes to make further changes: the department’s recently closed consultation (Review of Energy Assessor Accreditation Scheme Operations) also proposed that some of GDAA’s other suggestions, alongside Smart Auditing, should be added to the revised Scheme Operating Requirements (SORs).
It usually takes 3 months for DCLG to respond to a consultation so it may be some time before we know if these changes will actually happen. When that’s decided, it will take a while for them to be implemented by the Accreditation Schemes, and to work their way through into working practices. I feel that the changes will be of benefit to the honest DEA and I strongly support the efforts to weed out any sharp practices that may have brought the EPC into disrepute in the past.
If you wish to instruct a GDAA member to carry out your energy assessment you can order a Green Deal Survey via the GDAA website. This will provide you with an EPC, plus advice on what action you might take to improve the energy efficiency of the home.
About the author: @linniR is a consultant, a freelance writer and a Domestic Energy Assessor accredited with the NHER scheme, and she enjoys all three. She tweets regularly on issues relating to energy efficiency and renewables and provides consultancy, especially in relation to training needs.
If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.
2 comments - read them below or add one