ICOM Winter Conference seeks to clarify energy legislation

The Industrial and Commercial Energy Association (ICOM) held its third Winter Conference at the end of October, with speakers from the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), the European Heating Industry (EHI), the National Measurement and Regulations Office (NMRO), the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and British Gas.

Opening the proceedings, ICOM Chairman Andy Parker noted that since the last conference there had been a number of changes in government policy and European regulations that directly impact the commercial and industrial heating industry.

Heating a priority

The first speaker was Richard Leyland from DECC, who noted that despite recent government announcements heating continues to be a priority in both the UK and Europe. He outlined the key elements within the government’s policy to reduce the carbon emissions associated with heating of buildings, as well as the current barriers to reducing ‘business heat’.

He also observed that there is a lack of data around how heat is used in the non-domestic sector, as well as a paucity of information relating to the cost and performance of various heating technologies. A priority for the government will be to improve understanding, with input from the heating industry, to help determine future strategies.

Questions from the floor made it clear that one of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the uncertainty that has been created by recent government announcements. Mr Leyland acknowledged this and assured delegates that the situation would be clarified in the 2016 Carbon Budget.

Multi-technology approach

Recognition of the importance of heating throughout Europe was affirmed by Vanessa Knezevic from the EHI, who brought delegates up to date with the latest developments within Europe. She noted that many of the best, and most challenging, strategies for Europe have been proposed by the UK heating industry, represented by ICOM.

She also expressed concern that there are moves within the EU to focus on just two heating technologies – district heating in urban areas and heat pumps in rural areas. The EHI is lobbying to include a multi-technology approach to the European Heating and Cooling strategy. Ms Knezevic observed that the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which is part of the European Heating and Cooling strategy, has no legislative power over member states.

Enforcement

Following on from the EHI presentation, Stephen Biswell of the NM&RO explained that his organisation is currently focused on environmental and sustainability issues and the enforcement of associated Directives – including Ecodesign and Energy labelling. He also reassured delegates that the NM&RO usually allows around a year after legislation has come into force before policing it, and that the general assumption is that the majority of non-compliance is not deliberate.

Wrong messages

Closing the morning session, ICOM Director Ross Anderson made reference to the government’s recent cuts in areas relating to energy efficiency and sustainability. It suggested this gives out the wrong message around renewables and that these technologies will still need incentives in the future.

He also brought delegates up to date with the latest developments in ICOM’s recently formed water treatment section. Recognising that there is currently no standard for commercial water treatment in heating systems, a working group has been established to explore the opportunities. With regard to industrial boiler systems, ICOM is working with the Combustion Equipment Association to revise an existing ICOM document.

Nearly zero energy

After lunch delegates reassembled to hear Hywel Davies of CIBSE discuss some of the areas of confusion that surround current regulation. These include a requirement within the EPBD for ‘nearly zero energy’ buildings by 2019 for public buildings and 2021 for other buildings. He noted that in this respect ‘public’ only relates to publicly owned and occupied buildings and not private buildings that are rented by a public organisation.

The vagueness of the term ‘nearly zero energy’ also came under scrutiny with the observation that the official definition does little to clarify this and is open to a wide range of interpretations. His suggestion was that as the Building Regulations require a ‘cost optimal’ approach this will also be applied within the definition of nearly zero energy.

Other areas of Dr Davies’ presentation included a suggestion that Trading Standards do not have the resources or expertise to enforce the EPBD effectively and that, given their other responsibilities, it is not their highest priority either. He also noted that following the demise of the Code for Sustainable Homes under the previous government, then changes to the role of BREEAM might be considered.

Heat networks

The last of the formal presentations came from Richard Long, District Heating Manager with British Gas, who explained that heat networks are supported by government forecasts and targets – but that the government has diluted some areas of policy support. He also observed that many heat networks have failed to deliver their full potential due to poor design, but that the CIBSE Heat Network Code of Practice should address this.

He then provided an overview of the various ways in which heat networks can be configured and the technologies they can utilise, while also noting the importance of mixed heat loads to maximise plant efficiency.

Closing the proceedings, Andy Parker confirmed that ICOM would continue to work closely with government departments and international bodies to inform and influence future policy decisions – as well as keeping members abreast of the latest developments. Feedback from delegates following the event was very positive, with the majority noting that they felt they had a better understanding of the current situation.

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