EPC passes the test

The proposal to allow DIY firms’ own assessors to conduct EPC assessments as part of Green Deal and then push their own products was always likely to raise concerns over putting profits before customer protection. But is this something that the industry can regulate? Paul Stephen reports

With Green Deal for domestic properties still on course for an October launch, the long-awaited details of the assessment process has the potential to become a banana-skin issue for the renewables sector

Integral to the whole scheme will be the assessment that all properties must undergo to produce an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – and thus determine the energy efficiency measures needed to qualify for Green Deal finance.

As things currently stand, energy assessors can be employed, and therefore paid, by any Green Deal provider. With securing consumer confidence a key player in the overall success of Green Deal, are safeguards needed to prevent businesses exaggerating energy efficiency measures required by homeowners in order to maximise profits?

The Department of Energy and Climate Change says that this situation should never arise as authorised Green Deal Advisors will need to be certified by an accredited certification body and signed up to a code of conduct on the Green Deal Register. But is this enough?

“The crucial factor is the implementation of clear regulation to ensure the assessment process is delivered to the highest standards, and the advice given is consistent to earn the confidence of both the consumer and industry,” said Jim Moore, Vaillant Group’s UK, Ireland and Northern Europe managing director.

“There is sense in the government’s proposal for the commercial market to take the lead in order to support a successful launch through an industry wide effort, as it is vital that the big player suppliers complete home assessments to drive mass participation in the Green Deal.”

Tony Staniforth, specification sales director at Kingspan Renewables, added: “To help make the Green Deal a success, it is important that there are as many assessors as possible to meet customer demand. With this in mind, as long as they rigidly stick to current guidelines (including declaring affiliations and seeking consent from customers for any additional services offered before the assessment), then being employed by a Green Deal supplier needn’t be an issue.”

Paul Smith, director of Gloucestershire-based installers 1st Call Renewables, also sees no cause to separate assessors from providers, adding: “Thousands of people were trained up for EPC assessment and then had no work when the government ditched the homebuyers pack. If it must be done then surely these are the people to do it; I can’t see how they can be independent from the companies that would pay them.”

The advice from YouGen, the renewable industry’s consumer information website, is that consumers should continue to get a number of quotes and never assume that a Green Deal Advisor will always offer the best deal.

YouGen’s founder, Cathy Debenham, said: “My feeling is that as long as the EPC system is properly policed, then it is ok. My understanding is that you would start the Green Deal process by getting an assessment that is independent and can be taken to any other provider.  would tell consumers to get informed. To use the information and go out to choose their preferred installers.

“I always tell people to get three quotes anyway because the first one is unlikely to be the best deal.”