The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) launched a consultation in March this year, seeking to introduce a mandatory rating for energy use of buildings of 1,000 sq m and above in England and Wales. With the UK Government pledging to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050 it is evident this consultation is needed. The built environment, particularly commercial and industrial buildings, pose a significant challenge for decarbonisation targets. Only 7% of commercial and industrial buildings in England and Wales are over 1000 sq m, but these actually use over 53% of the energy used by all commercial and industrial buildings.

The Government is proposing that owners and tenants of buildings over 1,000 sq m will be required to obtain an annual efficiency rating for their building, which would be publicly available. This could potentially see NABERS (the Australian scheme introduced to the UK by Better Buildings Partnership) become mandatory (it is currently voluntary). NABERS provides an efficiency star rating from one to six with ratings from ‘poor’ (1) to ‘market leading’ (6). In Australia, NABERS has helped secure a 34% reduction in energy use over the past decade. 

NABERS assesses efficiency over four elements - energy, water usage, waste management and indoor environment quality. The ratings help building owners understand their building’s performance in comparison to other similar buildings (which also helps to provide a benchmark for progress). 

But, doesn’t the UK already have an energy efficiency rating system in place?

Yes, Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) are required in the UK whenever a property is built, sold or rented. An EPC contains information about a property’s energy use, typical energy costs, and recommendations about how to reduce energy use. An EPC gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years. However, the EPC system is design-based – it provides an assessment of efficiency based on how a building, in theory, should perform. 

On the other hand, NABERS is a performance-based scheme. It provides an assessment of efficiency based on how a building actually performs year on year. NABERS ratings are also only valid for 12 months, helping to ensure that the rating represents a building’s current performance. 

The Government’s ambition to reach net-zero carbon by 2050 is a big ask and, if a scheme such as NABERS is adopted, it could well help this target to be met. Not only will such a scheme help the UK reach this target, but BEIS has said that it could potentially help save £1 billion in energy costs, as well as providing further critical information to help with the race towards net-zero carbon.

The consultation is about to close (on the evening of 9 June 2021), so make sure to get your comments submitted!