Domestic energy efficiency upgrades should be backed by a quality mark to protect homeowners, says new review from BRE chief
A review into domestic energy efficiency has revealed a raft of recommendations for the sector. The long anticipated Bonfield Review into green home improvements sets out 27 ideas that could boost the uptake of domestic energy efficiency measures.
The review from BRE Chief Executive Peter Bonfield was commissioned by former Energy Secretary Amber Rudd and former Communities Secretary Greg Clark last July following the failure of the Green Deal. The government’s flagship domestic energy home improvement programme was heavily criticised for its inability to achieve what it set out to do.
In the review, Bonfield warned there had been “too many instances of poor quality [energy efficiency] installations being made by companies who do not have the skills, quality levels or core values required to operate responsibly in this market.”
He called for a single quality mark that would cover energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. This would be backed by a consumer charter, code of conduct and code of practice that would be easily identifiable. Bonfield’s review ‘Each Home Counts’ also said firms should only be able to win work if they have the quality mark.
Framework for energy efficiency
Other recommendations set out in the review include a standards framework for the delivery of retrofit energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. This would build on existing standards. It also suggested a Strategic Governance Board should be created to ensure the implementation of the framework. Furthermore, smart meters should be installed in as many properties as possible.
In a joint ministerial foreword, Housing Minister Gavin Barwell and Energy Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said: “Our focus in government, when considering possible action related to the recommendations, will be to intervene where it is necessary to create the enabling conditions in which markets can flourish.
“We support the intention of the review to provide a more simple and transparent framework which should reduce the need for government intervention across the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors.”
Quality should be a focus
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said the review was right to focus on quality. Chief executive Brian Berry commented: “Bonfield is right to focus on improving quality – both the technical quality of energy efficiency improvement work and the quality of customer service experienced by the consumer.
“The energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors, like the wider domestic building industry, remain largely under-regulated, with too few checks to protect consumers from poor quality builders.
“In the absence of a licensing system for domestic building work, as occurs in Canada and Australia, we must look at other ways of raising standards and boosting quality.
“Indeed, the FMB’s own strategy for the past few years has been very much aligned with this aspiration.
“We already ensure that any company wanting to join the FMB undergoes an independent inspection as well as having to adhere to a Code of Practice, as recommended by Bonfield in his report.”
Berry concluded: “The FMB is also fully behind the drive for higher levels of consumer confidence as this is itself a prerequisite for greater demand for energy efficiency measures.
“However, this quality and confidence alone will not be sufficient to drive the quantity of low carbon refurbishment which will be necessary to upgrade the UK’s housings stock and make sure the UK meets its legally binding target by 2050.
“We also need financial incentives from the Government to encourage home owners to invest in these improvements. Industry can and will support higher standards but only the Government can ensure sufficient demand.”