Ralph Allen DEC Cropped

Why Transition Bath is concerned with DCLG’s attempts to abolish DECs for schools?

Summary

At short notice, before the upcoming General Election the government has announced a consultation due to end on March 11th whose aim is to drastically reduce the number of schools which are required to provide annual Display Energy Certificates. All public buildings that are visited by the public have been required to display their annual energy consumption, in the form of a grade between A and G relative to similar buildings since 2009.

The stated aim of the consultation is to reduce ‘gold-plating’ and bureaucracy by claiming schools are not visited by the public and therefore should not be required to disclose their annual energy consumption.

Transition Bath object to this change for the following reasons:

  1. The availability of this annual check on a public building’s energy consumption has enabled us to target energy inefficient schools and make significant reductions in their energy consumption (see later in this article). The Transition Bath Schools Energy project was initiated by the availability of nationally available per public building energy consumption via CSE.
  2. The cost of schools providing their annual energy consumption data is insignificant compared with the energy savings which are possible using this data
  3. As tax payers and environmentalists we don’t understand the political dogma, which would look to reduce a process which on a net basis has the potential to save lots of energy and costs
  4. Display Energy Certificates encourage schools to think about their energy consumption, without them the information remains hidden
  5. DECs are an essential tool for governors to monitor how their schools are performing from an energy perspective
  6. They are also a useful educational aid, and teach inquisitive pupils about the value of energy and that their school is a consumer of energy
  7. We object to the timing of the consultation just before a General Election
  8. A central database of public building energy consumption data is a valuable research tool in understanding patterns and trends in public building energy consumption
  9. The removal of this data goes against the government’s ‘Open Data’ policy and makes government less transparent. The intent behind this consultation seems consistent with the government’s policy to hide public building energy consumption from the public and external analysis – we don’t understand the reason for this?

Transition Bath’s formal response to the consultation is available here.

A Case Study: Why Transition Bath has found the Display Energy Certificate Data useful

Four years ago we were given a talk by Lock-In Energy on their work in providing Energy Surveys at a number of schools in the Bath area. This talk highlighted the significant opportunities for energy reduction at the school’s they had surveyed. At the same time a Freedom of Information Request released 3 years’ worth of annual energy consumption data for all large public buildings based on their DEC certificates to the Centre for Sustainable Energy who made this data publically available.

This triggered our Schools Energy Project, whose initial aim was to use this data to target the worse performing schools and to try to help them reduce their energy consumption. We started by plotting the schools’ annual energy consumption per square meter of floor area and per pupil to see how schools compared:

Graph of energy consumption at BNES Schools

The graph displays the CO2 consumption per floor area (a good proxy for the relative cost of each fuel) split into gas, oil and electricity for each school in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) (represented by a bar). As can be seen there are very significant differences in per floor area energy use between the different schools; the best performing schools use less than 20% of the energy of the worst performing schools. This picture is consistent with schools nationally and reflects our experience of schools outside B&NES, this excellent national research mirrors our findings.

By focussing in on the schools on the left hand end of the graph it is possible to identify schools with the most potential for energy reductions.

The example below comes from a school we worked with where we identified a faulty boiler controller had been running the heating 24 hours a day, 365 days per year (not the only one!):

School 55percent Gas Reduction

As a result of fixing the boiler controller gas consumption at the school has reduced by 55% saving the school significant costs. None of this would have been possible without the DEC data provided by the Centre for Sustainable Energy.

Conclusion

It seems to us that political dogma has overridden common sense and rational scientific evidence at the Department for Communities and Local Government. We feel under Eric Pickles’ MP and Stephen Williams’ MP guidance this consultation is poorly thought out, and ultimately could significantly impact the opportunities to reduce the energy used in public buildings. We believe as tax payers we should have the right to see how well our public buildings are performing and do not think it productive to remove that right? The timing, just before the general election seems opportunistic?

Background reading

  1. Pickles’ DEC decision beggars belief”, Andrew Warren, Building.co.uk, 18 Feb 2015
  2. “Should DECs be abolished … or improved?” , Robert Cohen, 2degrees community, 24 Feb 2015
  3. “Ex building regs minister attacks ‘sad’ DECs policy” , Joey Gardiner, Building.co.uk, 27 Feb 2015
  4. “Commissioner rejects case against releasing energy data”, Martin Rosenbaum, BBC, 16 Jan 2015
  5. “Eric Pickles’ scrapping of efficiency certificates is as dozy as a Yellowstone bear” , Geoffrey Lean, Daily Telegraph, 21 Feb 2015
  6. “Using Display Energy Certificates to quantify schools’ energy consumption”, Daniel Godoy-Shimizu, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, Oct 2011
  7. “18% reduction in gas consumption in B&NES Schools since last year”, Transition Bath, Sep 2014
  8. “Improving the transparency and accountability of government and its services” , Cabinet Office, 10 Jul 2014
  9. “Display Energy Certificate Open Data”, Annual Energy Consumption data for all public buildings for 2008,2009 and 2010, Centre for Sustainable Energy
  10. “Improving the Display Energy Certificate regime for public buildings”, DCLG, 11 Feb 2015

 

 

 

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