Make savings where it matters

Since the introduction of the Display Energy Certificate, the importance of improving energy efficiency has grown. Despite this however, there remains a level of uncertainty surrounding its application. The Display Energy Certificate (DEC) was introduced back in October 2008 following the mandatory introduction of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which all EU member states were required to implement by January 2009.

Designed to promote the improvement of the energy performance of buildings, the DEC was essentially introduced as a way of increasing the visibility of a public building’s energy efficiency.

Whilst the Energy Performance Certificate was brought into the domestic sphere as a mandatory part of the Home Information Pack, the DEC essentially offers the public building equivalent. The certificate takes the form of an A3 document which is valid for one year and is accompanied by an advisory report, which is valid for three years.

The structure of the certificate itself is simple – an operational rating on the A to G scale is provided alongside a breakdown of the CO2 emissions of the building. A summary of previous operational ratings is also given to highlight the progress of the building’s performance. In addition, a technical summary outlines how the energy is used within the building in terms of its main heating source and its floor area as well as energy use both overall and via renewable technologies.

Who is affected?

In terms of who the DEC is required for, the relevant documentation indicates that only buildings, with a total useful floor area greater than 1000sq m, occupied either by a public authority or an institution providing a public service to a large number of people are affected by this legislation. Consequently, the introduction of the DEC prompted a significant change in approach for those commissioning energy-using appliances for schools, leisure facilities or hospitals, for example.

There is an educational role being played here. The view of the government is that members of the public should be able to view exactly how the energy is used within the buildings they are visiting. Whilst the public sector is seen as the area to set an example, we welcome recent calls to implement the legislation across all buildings. Should this happen, we can expect to see businesses be more mindful of their energy use, which can only benefit our attempts to achieve the government’s longer term emissions targets.

What is an operational rating?

The element of the DEC which draws the most focus is the operational rating, which places the energy efficiency of the particular building against a benchmark of good practice. In the UK, we use CO2 emissions as the common unit for the assessment of energy performance, with higher CO2 emissions representing lower efficiencies.

In order to obtain the operational rating of a building, the occupier is required to liaise with the energy assessor to obtain actual meter readings for all fuels used. Whilst this may simply be a case of gathering readings for the gas and electricity use on site, oil fuels, solid fuels and district heating and cooling also fall under the assessment requirements. Associated to each of these is a carbon factor, which enables the amount of carbon dioxide per kWh of energy delivered to be calculated.

The conversion of this information into the operational rating of the building is then calculated by comparing the CO2 emissions to the value that would typically be expected for a building of that type. Factors such as the category of the building, its location and its occupancy are used as a measure of how energy should be used, which then enables the ultimate comparison to be made.

Make improvements

We have to remember that the ultimate aim of the DEC is to publicise the efficiency of the building it is located within. The expectation therefore is for the organisations required to display a certificate to make efforts to score a favourable rating. Since the introduction of the DEC, we have seen the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme introduced to further tighten the way organisations monitor their carbon footprint.

We have seen fundamental and radical changes in the commercial heating market over the last five years. Sales of atmospheric boilers have collapsed because of the requirement to meet efficiency targets. Meanwhile, investors suffering from rising energy costs have demanded even higher efficiency from their boilers. As such 75% of the commercial boilers being installed today are condensing types, with the vast majority being wall hung units combined into cascades.

What needs to be remembered is that in the replacement market, one solution definitely does not fit all and the individual requirements of each installation need to be carefully weighed to identify the benefits of each available solution. Detailed analysis of the options, together with full explanations of the expected returns, will allow investors to make the right decisions and reward them with the energy savings they expect.

In addition, we have seen the long-awaited RHI put in place to encourage a large scale switchover from fossil fuels to renewable alternatives. There has never been a better time to take advantage of the products available in order to make significant savings both in terms of carbon emissions and fuel costs.

Perfect partners

Versatile solar thermal systems are now available in the commercial and industrial sector, and offer compatibility with condensing boilers, which can prove to be a perfect partnership. The benefit of adding solar to a building’s heating system is that following the initial investment, solar is effectively a continuous source of free energy that can be put to use to provide hot water and space heating.

Buderus has recently added a gas absorption heat pump to its portfolio of carbon-cutting technologies. A relatively new concept within industry circles, the product uses gas as the primary energy source directly at the point of use rather than electricity, which is generated largely in coal or gas-fired power stations. By doing so gas absorption heat pumps have a significantly smaller carbon footprint than other heating appliances, such as gas-fired condensing boilers for example.

With fuel costs continuing to rise, renewables offer an opportunity for organisations to benefit from an immediate return on investment, whilst demonstrating a strong commitment to environmental responsibility – both of which reflect positively on a display energy efficient rating.