Monday 5 January 2009

New energy rating system in place for all homes for sale or rent

The national energy rating system, which advises on the energy efficiency of buildings, has been extended to all homes that go for sale or rent from January 1st 2009.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley TD - and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD - welcomed the extension of the system and said it would provide clear information to consumers thinking of buying or renting a home.

From January 1st all domestic properties for sale or rent are required to have a Building Energy Rating - or BER - which gives a technical assessment of how energy efficient the home is.

The EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires all Member States to put a BER certification system in place on a phased basis. For Ireland the system came into effect for new houses in 2007 and this phasing concludes on 1 January 2009 with secondhand homes.

A BER is obtained by the landlord/seller and is valid for 10 years. BER Certificates help consumers who are buying or renting a property to make an informed choice between available properties, having regard to a comparison of their energy rating. In addition, an Advisory Report - which must accompany each BER Certificate - offers guidance on steps that can be taken to improve the energy efficiency of the house or building.

In Ireland, a BER certificate is issued by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) following an assessment by a qualified BER assessor, who must be registered with SEI.

“This final phase of BER implementation from 1 January 2009 is a very positive step forward” - Minister Gormley said. “It provides real, valuable information to consumers about the properties they have an interest in and about the likely energy costs of running them.”

The Advisory Report, which is an integral part of the BER system, also points to potential improvements which can be undertaken by the new owner - at his/her own discretion and timescale - which will serve to cut fuel and energy costs further and improve the environmental impact and comfort of the building or dwelling. "Influencing the personal choices and behaviours of individual consumers in this way is crucial to Ireland’s success in reducing energy usage and CO2 emissions and to meeting our wider Climate Change obligations” - the Minister added.

Minister Ryan stated - “The first step in solving a problem is to understand it. A BER Certificate and the accompanying Advisory Report will inform people how good or bad their home is at keeping in heat and what they need to do to improve it. I expect that the information people get from the BER process will make a lot of people think about how much money they are losing through poor insulation and will lead to much interest in retrofitting insulation and other energy efficiency measures in their homes, providing a useful boost to the construction sector. I have made available €25 million for 2008/09 to assist people with these upgrade works through the Home Energy Saving Scheme.”

Addressing some recent commentators who described the initiative as an unnecessary burden on property owners at a time of market uncertainty, Minister Gormley said - “Nothing could be further from the truth. The cost of a BER assessment is modest compared to the value of the asset and, since it represents a commercial fee for services rendered, it is no different from other service fees.

"Some 1,030 persons are already registered with SEI as BER Assessors for new homes and over 660 for existing homes. A further 2,800 persons have also undergone the requisite training to-date and we can expect a proportion of these to be motivated to also register with SEI as demand for BER assessments increases.

"So, I am confident that the basis for a competitive market for this service is well advanced. It is imperative, however, that consumers get value for the money they spend. As with any other service, I strongly advise consumers to shop around among the registered assessors in their area in order to get the most competitive quote they can from a quality BER assessment provider.”

BER System

* The EU Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings introduced a requirement on each Member State to introduce a Building Energy Rating (BER) system. This Directive was transposed into Irish law in the form of the European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2006.

* This is the final of three stages for the BER system which were provided for under the 2006 Regulations. Subject to certain transitional arrangements, BER Certificates for new dwellings have been required since 1 January, 2007, those for new buildings other than dwellings from 1 July, 2008 and, with effect from 1 January, 2009, buildings of any class, which are offered for sale, or letting must have a BER certificate.

* The BER is similar to the energy label on a fridge, with a scale of A to G. 'A' rated homes are the most energy efficient and 'G' the least energy efficient.

* There are limited exemptions for certain categories of buildings - e.g. protected structures and certain temporary buildings.

* Over 3,800 persons so far have successfully completed SEI accredited training courses, which makes them eligible to become registered BER assessors. To-date 1,032 of these persons have been officially registered as BER assessors for new dwellings and 667 of these have extended this registration to cover existing dwellings. A searchable database of registered BER Assessors available nationwide is included on SEI’s website - Click Here

* The costs of BERs will vary according to the size and location of the building and the advice is to shop around for the best price. Ultimately, market forces will determine the costs for various categories of buildings, but given the likely upturn in BER activity from 1 January 2009, it is expected that assessment fees will become more and more competitive over time and that Assessors will offer a range of other complementary services.

* A person who, after 1 January 2009, offers a building for sale or letting, or any agent acting on their behalf, is required to produce a copy of the BER certificate to any person expressing an interest in purchasing or taking a letting in the building. A person who contravenes these requirements commits an offence and is liable to be fined, on prosecution by the Building Control Authority in whose functional area the building is situated, a sum not exceeding €5,000.

Other Building Energy Efficiency Measures

* The following measures have been delivered or are currently being considered -

· Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Energy) of the Building Regulations was upgraded in 2007 to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions for new dwellings by 40% relative to 2005 standards and the new standards came into force with effect from 1 July, 2008;

· A further upgrade to achieve a 60% improvement in energy efficiency and CO2 emissions in new dwellings (again relative to 2005 standards) will be introduced in 2010;

· The 2007 upgrade also introduced, for the first time, a mandatory requirement for new homes to source some of their energy from renewable sources.

· Work is well under way with industry, through the statutory Building Regulations Advisory Body (BRAB), to determine new targets for buildings other than dwellings (e.g. industrial, commercial, retail, public buildings, etc.) to be effective - also from 2010.

* Retro-fitting

The following retro-fitting/sustainable energy programmes are currently in place under the remit of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources -

· The third round of the Greener Homes Scheme, which provides grant assistance to homeowners to purchase a new renewable energy heating system for existing homes, was launched in July 2008 - the 2008 budget is €22.5m;

· The Home Energy Saving Scheme provides grants to householders to improve the energy performance of their homes - the scheme was introduced on a pilot basis with a budget of €5m in 2008. €20m has been allocated for this scheme in Budget 2009.

· The Warmer Homes Scheme provides energy efficiency improvements to lower-income households in the private sector - €10m has been allocated for this scheme in Budget 2009.

· The Low Carbon Homes Programme is the successor to the House of Tomorrow Programme. The programme will support suitable housing developments in which CO2 emissions from energy use are reduced by at least 70% (relative to a 'reference dwelling' built to baseline Building Regulations 2005 standards) and which achieve a building energy rating (BER) of A2 or better.

· The ESB has been requested to undertake a pilot study for 18 months on the use of Smart Metering in Irish homes. Smart metering enables homeowners to monitor closely how electricity is used in the home and the associated costs. It also paves the way for electricity produced by renewable technologies to be transferred to the national grid and to be offset against the homeowners electricity bill.

Finally, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and local authorities will begin an audit of the public housing stock in 2009, to lay the foundation for a programme of retrofitting, where required, to deliver modern standards of energy efficiency.

In parallel with this audit, €5m is being provided in 2009 to undertake a number of pilot retrofitting projects - the learning derived from these will inform the wider roll-out of the programme to commence once the audit is completed.

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