Energy management in social housing

Energy management in social housing

Managing ‘big data’ from Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) can bring even greater energy efficiency for social housing, explains Stuart Fairlie, head of technical for Elmhurst Energy.

Housing associations are already making significant energy efficiency savings thanks to legislation and regulations and the performance measurement provided by Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). However, the ‘big data’ the hundreds and possibly thousands of EPCs provide can — and should be — used to create even more energy efficiency savings in the social housing sector.

Registered Social Landlords manage approximately 4.7 million domestic properties out of the approximately 27 million homes in the UK, (Office for National Statistics 2015). This is clearly a very significant sector and one, which is heavily regulated with legislative targets differing across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, adding complexity for social housing managers.

Over the years different governments and Regional Assemblies have set new energy efficiency regulations and standards on this vital sector of the housing market. In fact in 2007 the Government sanctioned a new policy to make sure that all tenants receive an Energy Performance Certificate before they could rent a property. The EPC gave consistency to the market and for the first time included private landlords, the private housing market, whilst also covering new-build dwellings.

From that point, homes needed to be surveyed using the newly created Reduced Data Standard Assessment Procedure (RdSAP) methodology. For most social landlords this was not new, as they had been using the likes of Elmhurst Energy, PIMSS and Northgate to produce Energy Reports for many years previous to this. Legislation like the Home Energy Conservation Act meant that average energy rating scores (using Standard Assessment Procedure — SAP) needed to be returned each year to central Government.

The overall aim of these energy rules and regulations is to lift families out of fuel poverty and make homes warmer and more liveable. The benefit is that not only do families save money, but that they demand less energy from the grid and therefore we as a nation create less carbon emissions. Interestingly recent research also suggests a direct correlation between warmer homes and NHS usage. Social landlords are fully aware of all of these issues, sitting at the coalface; helping families feel safe, as well as meeting a plethora of old and new regulations.

Streamlined approach
Elmhurst Energy would like to see even more energy efficiency savings made, and these could be achieved by using the ‘big data’ produced by EPCs. Social landlords already need to collate all their data into one place. They need to create a variety of reports to satisfy different requirements from different policy makers. However if this is where it stops, then the policy may be met, but opportunities may be missed to make even further savings, if the ‘big data’ is not used.

This is where software such as Elmhurst Energy’s Streamline offers a range of practical solutions. Partners such as Northgate (SAM) and PIMSS have also embedded our energy assessment expertise into their own products, allowing social landlords to:

  • Collate their energy (EPC) data in one single database.
  • Commission and receive updated energy assessments.
  • Undertake ‘What if’ modelling to see where energy improvements make the best impact.
  • Produce annual report data in the latest version of RdSAP at the press of a button.
  • Readily identify opportunities for cost-effective energy saving improvement.
  • Demonstrate that social landlords legal obligations to provide a valid EPC has been met.
  • Integrate energy data into long-term maintenance strategy.
  • Quickly identify poor performing properties to access government funding.
  • Quickly produce average SAP reports to demonstrate improvements to housing stock.

The data is available, but to make a real difference to people lives, the data must be used and managed effectively. The tools available allow organisations to effectively invest in the poorest properties, bringing those families out of fuel poverty and making a real difference to people’s lives.

For the social landlord, then, the journey towards these savings starts with an Energy Performance Certificate, but the management of the data is then crucial, use it and you can make a difference. Leave it alone and fuel bills will continue to rise, missed opportunities will be wasted, and families will be directly affected.

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