But housing minister’s call gets mixed reception from industry associations

Housing minister Yvette Cooper has backed Building’s 99% campaign by calling for financial incentives to be introduced to encourage home owners to introduce energy-saving measures.

Cooper announced this week that Energy Performance Certificates for residential properties, which will be introduced next June, ought to be linked to measures such as “green mortgages” or schemes run by energy companies that would give homebuyers money to make energy-saving changes.

Green mortgages, which are already on the market, permit a potential homeowner to borrow more money for a mortgage as energy bills will be lower.

Cooper said she would meet mortgage lenders and energy companies soon. She noted that until now householders had not been presented with the energy efficiency facts about their homes. But from June every homebuyer would know how energy efficient it was – and how to improve matters.

“Why shouldn’t this information be used by mortgage lenders or energy companies?” Cooper asked. “In England, 16 councils have piloted schemes with energy companies whereby council tax rebates are offered to people who make energy-saving changes to their homes. EPCs offer great scope for incentives like these.”

However, industry observers point out that the announcement does not give any further information on how EPCs for the commercial sector will be linked to fiscal incentives.

Leading industry associations, such as the British Property Federation, believe there is a lack of information on EPCs for commercial buildings. The federation has struck out on its own and is now running a scheme that will result in the establishment of an industry “code” to guide commercial clients.

Cooper’s announcement has been criticised by the energy rating industry as too weak. Austin Baggett, head of the National Home Energy Rating scheme for energy assessors, called on the Treasury to introduce stronger incentives to boost the take-up of energy-efficient measures.

He said: “Giving new homeowners a rebate on the stamp duty they have paid if they take up the low cost measures recommended on the EPC would encourage action. Climate change requires tough decisions and we need the Treasury to stop dragging its feet.”

The call for more action from the Treasury was echoed by the Construction Products Association, which backed the 99% Campaign. John Tebbitt, industry affairs director at the association, said Cooper’s announcement was a welcome, if small, step, but that further measures had to be taken.

He said: “Until the Treasury accepts that it will have to be a bit more creative with incentives, we are not going anywhere fast.”

Cooper’s announcement was welcomed by the WWF, an environmental pressure group, which claimed that incentives would lead to more consumers taking measures to make their homes more energy-efficient.

The idea of energy ratings for homes, in the form of the EPC, is one of the only remaining compulsory element of the slimmed down Home Information Pack. It comes into force in June. The certificate will outline the costs of heating, hot water and lighting in a home and give advice on how to cut these costs.