Energy Efficiency: from Glasgow/Scotland to Canada

The Energy Saving Trust has recently announced it will be providing support to Natural Resources Canada as the North American country works toward introducing new building energy labelling schemes.

This is part of a wider collaboration between Canada and the UK following the announcement of a closer partnership between the two sovereign states, with one particular subject of the partnership regarding clean growth and climate change.

With Canada’s cold climate creating a huge demand for energy to warm people’s homes, contributing massively to their national carbon emissions, it’s no surprise they are looking for inspiration and help from elsewhere.

Currently in Scotland, as with the rest of the UK, buildings are required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which provides information on how energy efficient a building is, and how it may be improved. Buildings are rated on a scale from A to G, with A being the most efficient. Around 19% of households rated EPC bands B or C are fuel poor, compared with 73% of those in homes rated F or G.

Research by the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group shows that better energy efficiency ratings are associated with lower fuel poverty rates, and have also been shown to command a higher property value.

To help with improving buildings’ energy efficiency, The Scottish Government began offering a new range of schemes in 2015. This was a response to help combat the rising cases of fuel poverty, and to ultimately help with reaching their emission reduction targets. The Energy Saving Trust, in partnership with various advice providers and energy companies, manages these schemes through Home Energy Scotland, awarding funding to councils to help deliver useful programmes.

One such scheme, the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland scheme (HEEPS), has been devised to provide at least £16 million per year for up to seven years, “offering insulation measures as well as heating measures to improve the energy efficiency of the Scottish housing stock and to sustainably reduce fuel bills”. This is being done by offering interest-free loans of up to £15,000 allowing householders the freedom to install a variety of energy efficient measures.

On top of this proactive sustainability approach from the Scottish Government, in Glasgow a strategic housing investment plan has been created for 10,000 new affordable homes over the next five years. The plan aims to create sustainable mixed tenure communities in the city and work with local communities to improve housing quality and services focusing on, among other things, improving energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty.

With climate change being a focal topic of discussion in recent times – and, without a doubt, for many discussions to come – it’s no surprise that European Governments are initiating change with their respective buildings’ EPC ratings.

Following from the UK Government’s Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) that will be imposed in 2018, the Scottish Government is proposing minimum ratings of its own. According to official figures, 28% of privately rented properties have the lowest energy efficiency ratings of E, F and G, seriously affecting living quality for many residents.

The future of energy efficiency in Scotland looks positive, being designated as a National Infrastructure Priority, the foundation of which will be Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP).

The 15 to 20 year programme will assist local authorities “to pilot new and innovative approaches to energy efficiency with community groups and businesses, helping reduce costs and improving warmth in homes, schools, hospitals and businesses”.

Not only are programmes, such as SEEP, constructive in terms of reducing carbon emissions but they offer windows of opportunity such as job creation through building construction.

Specifically regarding energy labelling on buildings, having to improve properties’ ratings, as would be required with the likes of the MEES, allows landlords the chance to positively interact their tenants. Along with increased tenant satisfaction, benefits of energy efficient retrofitting include less regular maintenance and more attractive properties. The rental and asset value of a property may also increase, particularly if combined with additional refit upgrades.

Although Canada recently enforced a new set of energy efficiency standards on some consumer and commercial products – primarily household appliances and white goods – moving on to the nation’s buildings will be a step required soon if they wish to meet their ambitious climate targets. With calls for mandatory energy audits on homes currently seen as a costly burden, being provided help from a nation also undergoing a green refit in the form of Scotland will be a big step in the right direction.

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