Commercial energy efficiency strategy is tanking, says TUC

13th February 2015

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Paul Foran

Businesses are being saddled with higher than necessary energy bills due to the failure of the government's energy efficiency strategy for the commercial sector, according to a report from the TUC.

UK commercial energy efficiency’s rate of improvement to has stagnated since 2007, the trades union body said. The Committee on Climate Change said in its 2013 progress report on UK carbon budgets that there had been “little progress” in the sector.

The report outlines how energy efficiency can be improved in offices, supermarkets, hotels and other commercial businesses. The organisation believes that policy should focus on five different areas: regulation; tax incentives; access to finance; information gathering and dissemination; and staff unions and management working together to make workplaces greener.

Switching energy suppliers can help businesses save the average small business £50-£100 a year, but this is small compared with £400-£800 from energy efficiency measures, the TUC says.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Better energy regulations backed by access to finance, a one-stop shop for energy advice, and encouraging green workplaces would all help tackle this pointless and expensive frittering away of energy.”

Last week, the government introduced new regulations setting minimum energy performance standards for non-domestic buildings. From April 2018, landlords will be required by law to get their most inefficient buildings to an energy efficiency rating of at least band “E”, demonstrated by an up to date energy performance certificate.

The regulations will apply when leases are granted to new or existing tenants. The penalties for non-compliance could be as high as £150,000 per property.

Research by consultants WSP last year showed up to 35% of commercial buildings in the UK could be below the new standards by 2018, rather than the 18% estimated by the government in its consultation. This is because buildings that score an E rating in today’s terms could be downgraded to an F rating by the time the regulations come into force, since EPC scoring gets progressively tighter as building regulations get more stringent over time.

Simon Clouston head of sustainability and energy at WSP, said that the regulations stand to have a significant impact.

“It’s been tricky in the past to achieve substantial energy efficiency improvements to the existing non-domestic building stock because it hasn’t been clear where responsibility lies – the landlord or the tenant,” he said.

However, the government has also this week launched a consultation that proposes redefining which public buildings should be obliged to have display energy certificates. Around 54,000 town halls, swimming pools and schools may no longer have to measure their energy use, removing their ability to identify opportunities to reduce it, according to the UK Green Building Council.

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