Lord Redesdale debates involving the Northern Ireland Office during the 2019 Parliament

Fri 7th Feb 2020
Domestic Premises (Energy Performance) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Thu 6th Feb 2020

Domestic Premises (Energy Performance) Bill [HL]

Lord Redesdale Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading
Friday 7th February 2020

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Redesdale Portrait Lord Redesdale (LD)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Foster for introducing this Bill. Looking around the House at those taking part in this debate, it seems to be a very small group who have been undertaking this work for, in some cases, decades. I remember raising the issue with the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, when he was a Minister, which was some time ago. I must declare an interest as CEO of the Energy Managers Association and as a landowner, as set out in the register.

Although my noble friend Lord Foster has said that this is a simple Bill, the problems associated with the language are anything but. I always have difficulty with the expression “fuel poverty”, because it mixes the cost of fuel and the use of fuel. One problem we have of course is that, if the price of gas is low, then fuel poverty is seen as less of an issue, but fuel expenditure increases because people raise the temperature in their houses. This is not to denigrate the issue of fuel poverty; in fact, it was brought to me in stark relief when one of my tenants came to me to say that they were paying more year on year on their energy bill than on their rent. There was of course a simple solution—though not the solution that immediately springs to mind for many private landlords—which was to look at how I could increase the energy efficiency of the building. It was a complicated building to look at, being in a rural area and having been built over a number of centuries, but I realised that work needed to be undertaken. We did that work, but of course it had a 14-year payback compared with the rent. This is an issue that landlords often face. I believe there is an obligation on landlords that, if they cannot afford to rent out a property and the works, they should not own the property in the first place. That is a fundamental issue: we should not be pushing fuel poverty as an excuse.

There are ways of bringing properties up to standard, but there are a couple of issues that I raise in association with this Bill that will have to be addressed by the Government. The first is that, if we are to increase the energy efficiency of buildings, we will obviously have to look at the energy performance certificate. I remember when the legislation brought in that certificate in the first place; it is an excellent tool as far as it goes. The problem is that it was built around Part L at the time and really needs to be updated to reflect the movement that has taken place in terms of building materials—as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, pointed out—and the greater understanding of the use of buildings and what is possible. The EPC rating has been added to estate agents’ particulars—I remember putting it forward in a Private Member’s Bill, but it was put through in regulations by the Minister at the time, Yvette Cooper, even though there is apparently no such thing in law as estate agents’ particulars. The rating was added for houses being sold by estate agents, which is an important point. The rating sets out where the building is now but also the potential that the building can achieve. For a lot of older buildings, which is unfortunately the majority of our housing stock, the potential is in many cases way below the C or B rating that we would be looking for in the future. We have to look either at replacing a large proportion of the housing stock or at how we rate buildings and make sure that they get up to the highest possible level, without making the targets almost impossible to achieve.

There are number of things you can do, especially on older buildings. You can replace the boiler, which is a major element; you can replace double glazing. The latter is a problem which the Government are going to have to address head on and have discussions with Historic England about. English Heritage—I had many discussions with them—and now Historic England are trying to preserve wooden windows because of the look of buildings. However, we should start looking at modern materials mimicking those used in the past. Trying to replace wooden windows is a major problem. Ones you buy now are meant to be of sufficient quality, but they often rot out in five to 10 years. There is a carbon cost associated with that which probably negates the energy you are saving. I hope the Government will have discussions with the relevant bodies on how we should go forward with buildings. A classic example is this building, which is grade 1 listed. I have had discussions with the House authorities on the leaded windows, from which the heat dissipates through the single frame and the lead. Hardly any of them fit properly and there are enormous drafts. The only thing worse than lead is brass. Many of the windows in this building have their joints fitted with that material.

There are always exceptions, but a lot of people go down the rabbit hole of using historic buildings as an excuse for not implementing many of the energy efficiency ratings. However, you can introduce a lot of measures without detrimentally affecting the fabric of the building. As this is a Private Member’s Bill, I should direct this to my noble friend Lord Foster, but I hope the Minister will indicate whether the EPC rating is being looked at and whether Part L is still fit for purpose. A review of it against our climate change commitments would probably be the most beneficial step that could be taken. I remember having arguments about whether we should regulate for boilers at G rating and below to be outlawed and condensing boilers brought in. That single measure has had a greater impact on gas use in this country than any other. Part L is difficult. I remember discussing regulating this with DCLG, which argued that there was an embedded cost in the boiler itself which replacing the boiler could bring about in the carbon whole-life cycle. We did the work with Worcester Bosch and found that under 2% of the energy cost is in the boiler itself, rather than the fuel used. There would be a benefit in looking at Part L. This feeds across to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Deben. The standard of houses being built at the moment is appalling. We have let the housebuilders get away with it because we want new houses, but the quality is very low and, in some cases, shocking.

The Bill is such a cornucopia of issues that I could go on for hours, but my final point is that the Government should look at cavity wall insulation, which is a scandal waiting to happen. If put in properly, it is of massive benefit to the thermal properties of a house. However, there is more and more evidence that a lot of cavity wall insulation has been put in badly so that it soaks up water, makes the house damp and reduces its thermal properties. The problem with insulation is very large and has not been addressed. A lot of the smaller companies who put in badly installed insulation have gone bankrupt or are not covered. This issue is coming down the line and will cause problems to a lot of householders. I spoke to a company whose main work is sucking out old cavity wall insulation and replacing it. That is an industry that we should not have. This comes back to regulation on how insulation is put in in the first place.

I welcome the Bill. Unfortunately, my noble friend Lord Foster will hardly be surprised if it is not taken up with open arms. He has been too long in the game for that. It was depressing, listening to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, how many debates there have been on this and the how many pledges broken. I will have been in this House for 30 years next year. I started being involved in energy almost as soon as I arrived. It was assumed, 30 years ago, that we would have passive houses built as standard. It was assumed that the retro-fit which took place in properties would have been at a much higher level over that period. We are now looking to catch up in 10 years, to make that happen. I am not sure that the target is achievable, but if we do not undertake the basics at this point, it never will be.

Climate Change

Lord Redesdale Excerpts
Thursday 6th February 2020

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Redesdale Portrait Lord Redesdale (LD)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as CEO of SECR Reporting Ltd and as CEO of the Energy Managers’ Association, which represents about 5,000 energy professionals whose front-line job is to reduce the amount of energy used in the business sector. Its standing has been recently promoted by many companies declaring a climate emergency, which is a great thing to do, except that most companies in this country have not the ability or the understanding of how to reduce significantly the amount of energy they are using, which will be a problem.

I will take a different tack from many noble Lords and instead of lambasting the Government I will say that they are a world leader and, if they follow this route, will be seen at COP 26 as one of the premier Governments in dealing with climate change reduction. The reason for that is due to George Osborne. I do not think anyone has ever seen him as much of a climate champion, but back in 2016 when David Cameron was reported to say, “Let’s get rid of all this green crap”, what it meant was reducing the different energy subsidies such as FIT, RHI, CCAs and the CCL and replacing them with one taxation, the CCL, which came into effect in April 2019.

Linked to that was a report that 10,000 of the largest companies in the country will have to undertake in their financial year. The first tranche will have to start reporting in April 2020 when they lodge their report. The amazing thing about this report is that it sets out the road map for those companies to declare publicly what energy and carbon they are using, then set out quite clearly in a document that will be lodged with Companies House, if it is not in their own report, exactly what they are doing. For any shareholder, stake- holder or NGO that wants to look at that report, it will be totally clear to see what actions are being undertaken.

What have the Government actually mandated large companies to do? First, they have to record all their energy usage: electricity, gas and transport fuels. A lot of companies do not understand the amount of emissions they undertake on transport fuels. They have to report that in kilowatt hours. Then they have to report all the carbon in scope 1 and scope 2, and voluntarily in scope 3. They must then put in an intensity metric, which, because this report is coming out year on year, will show whether companies are going forwards or backwards. Obviously, it does not matter whether they grow or shrink, but it is a science-based target.

Interestingly, they must then say which methodology they have used to get to this—the EMA has written a handy methodology which can be used—because the next bit, which is fantastic, is that the companies must state the principal energy efficiency measures that they have undertaken. The Government have not set out what a PEEM—sorry, the Government are not great at acronyms—is, so in the EMA methodology we have set it out quite clearly. A company should state what policy and strategy it has for energy reduction, and who in the company is responsible. It should say what capex it is spending as a company and what opex it is undertaking, what contracts it is taking out with its FM providers, or what internal and external maintenance contracts, to ensure that it is doing things in a more energy-efficient manner going forward. Companies should look at their transport—which, of course, means electrification—and behaviour change.

This report must be lodged with Companies House. I will ask a couple of questions if I have time, but we have been talking to large companies, and it could be exciting if, by the time of COP 26 in Glasgow, the 10,000 companies are well on their way to publicly declaring this information, which is not replicated anywhere in the world. The really exciting part is that we are now discussing with large companies getting their supply chain to undertake SECR. They can do it very cheaply and lodge it for free on Companies House. Any company can then check its supply chain just by going to Companies House.

I finish with two questions. Will the Minister agree to a meeting with his excellent BEIS officials, who have written a fantastic programme, to see how this can be made part of the COP 26 process? Will he discuss with Companies House enforcing this as an electronic report that should then be available to all? Currently it is paper-based.