To support the training of GDAs, DECC has provided sufficient subsidy to train 1000 GDAs, at a cost to them which will be subsidised by up to 70%. Asset Skills, on DECC’s behalf, has run a competitive tendering process for this funding, the winners of which should be known very soon. All successful bidders will be required to attend two-day Train the Trainer sessions, to kick-start their task of preparing and delivering good quality training, and will have to comply with the stringent minimum requirements set out in the tender; these include referring to the Syllabus and Training Specifications that have also been provided.
First though, some background.
Many of SAP’s critics make the mistake of not appreciating why SAP simply must ignore the way the current occupier uses their home. An EPC must provide an Asset Rating, ie a rating for the property itself, ignoring the effect of the current occupier. The way the current occupiers use it is of no possible relevance to the next occupier; asking to see their past fuel bills only gives a false indication of the likely cost you might be faced with. The current occupier might leave the home unheated all day, and prefer cooler temperatures, whilst you have a new baby and will be heating it to higher temperatures and for much longer hours. So that’s why, when SAP is used for an EPC, it ignores the current occupier and their own occupancy pattern. Instead, it uses a typical standard, allowing a comparison to be made between different homes.
However, EPCs are not the only use for SAP – it has been used for lots of other things, and will also be used in Green Deal. This time though, because the advice given under Green Deal is for the current occupier (not some unknown future occupant), it is perfectly acceptable – in fact, essential – to look at how they use the home. This means things like how many people live there, how warm they like to be, their heating hours, their use of energy hungry appliances like freezers and tumble driers, and so on.
SAP is perfectly capable of taking all this into account; it just doesn’t for the EPC, for the reasons stated. Many observers have only seen SAP used for EPCs, and seem unaware that this standardised approach is not the only way it may be used.
I’ve reproduced below a table from the Carbon Brief article, showing actual and predicted savings found in one study, as I think it’s a helpful illustration of the need for Green Deal Advisors (GDAs) to have a good understanding of this issue.
The table illustrates actual and predicted savings for seven homes, which had all received energy efficiency improvements.
Of the seven, five achieved actual savings lower than the SAP predictions, one of these very much lower. Having read the above, you’ll be aware of one particular reason for the differences – the way the occupier uses the home. It seems that this is well modelled by SAP in only one case, home 2, where the prediction is uncannily accurate.
One home achieved higher savings than predicted, and that home, and the five that didn’t achieve the SAP savings, were occupied differently. For the homes that saved less, this could include being occupied by less than the predicted number of people, heating the home for shorter hours or to lower temperatures, perhaps using less hot water, and so on. Checking the comments on Carbon Brief’s article, we find that in the home with the biggest difference (home 6), the occupiers were exceedingly energy efficient before they started refurbishing, and so their energy use was significantly lower than average, hence the reduced savings.
So what does this mean for the Green Deal Golden Rule? Well, the current plan is for it to be calculated on SAP’s standardised assumptions. For the high fuel user, this means they may expect bigger savings than the predictions, and will expect to make repayments that are much lower than their savings. Conversely, low fuel users (and in particular, those in or at risk of fuel poverty) should expect lower savings, and their repayments might not be covered by their expected savings.
The GDA needs to be able to explain this to her customer. She will be expected to carry out an Occupancy Assessment, gathering information from the customer which allows her to run the SAP calculation with the occupier specific information replacing the standard assumptions. This re-run of the calculation will show where an occupier uses more or less than the typical amount of energy, and where their own expected savings differ from SAP’s predictions.
It falls to the GDA to be able to explain this to the customer, and give them good advice about whether they may rely on the Golden Rule assessment for their particular situation. This is one of many reasons why GDAs will need good training, and adequate assessment, to be sure they have the right skills to get that message over.