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Energy scandal: misleading efficiency claims leading to huge bills for homeowners

May 3, 2017

By Paul Homewood

 

h/t Philip Bratby

 

image

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/05/02/energy-scandal-misleading-efficiency-claims-leading-huge-bills/

 

From the Telegraph:

 

Homeowners and companies are being hit with unexpectedly high energy bills because planners continually make false promises about the ‘green’ credentials of new buildings, a major study has found.

Thousands of new homes, schools and offices are using double the energy that they should because planners are massively overestimating their efficiency, the University of Bath has found.

Britain’s buildings account for nearly half of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions through heating, cooking and lighting, but a new study suggests that carbon dioxide levels could be slashed if structures acted as they did on paper.

Experts at Bath University likened the scandal to the VW emissions debacle, where thousands of cars were fitted with defeat devices to beat rigorous pollution testing.

The government is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34 per cent by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050, but researchers say targets will be missed if builders continue to misinform clients about how efficient their homes and offices will be.

The difference between how much energy a building is predicted to use and how much it uses in reality has been known in the industry for decades, and is dubbed the ‘performance gap.’ But architects and engineers have traditionally blamed the problem on faulty construction, or unexpected use after completion – such as owners leaving too many lights on.

Half of Britain's greenhouse gas emissions are caused by buildings, but they are using double the amount of energy than they should 

Half of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by buildings, but they are using double the amount of energy than they should  Credit: ALI HAIDER

However David Coley, Professor of Low Carbon Design at the University of Bath, said the real problem stemmed from the practice of building modelling, which is not ‘fit for purpose.’

“It’s a serious scandal,” he said. “It affects all new buildings as well as the refurbishment of older ones.

“When one school in Plymouth was rebuilt, the energy bills for a month ended up costing the same as for an entire year in the old 1950s building.

“The problem is nobody checks that the building is performing as promised. There is very little regulation. They can’t be sued. It’s like a surgeon not being bothered about whether their patient lived or died.

“The impact of the inaccuracies of building modelling professionals has severe financial and environmental implications for both the government’s global warming targets as well as building owners who are purchasing homes and other buildings that are sold to be energy efficient but in reality are not.”

In the first research of its kind, a team from Bath’s Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering and Department of Psychology interviewed 108 building modelling professionals about 21 common design energy-related aspects of a building, from the insulation in the walls to the temperature the heating was set to.

The questioning was based on a real building in which detailed energy, occupancy and temperature data had been recorded, and provided a comparison with the answers of those surveyed.

Builders install a roof 

New buildings and refurbishments are usually far less efficient than promised in the original design Credit: PA

The UK Green Building Council said the government should bring in certification for homes that meet energy standards.

John Alker, Director of Policy & Campaigns at the UK Green Building Council said: “ “There is no doubt that the majority of buildings do not perform as they were designed to do. This is widely known in the construction sector, and it is something that the industry needs to get to grips with.

“The so-called ‘performance gap’ occurs for a variety of complex reasons, and needs action by all those involved in the property life cycle – such as architects, engineers, contractors and facilities managers – not just building modelling professionals.

“Government could support this by mandating Display Energy Certificates for all buildings, which show how a building actually performs in operation.”

The researchers found that the building modelling professionals could not agree on which aspects were important and which were not, or how much difference to the energy bill changes to them would make. A quarter of those interviewed were judged to be no better than if a member of the public had responded at random.

Building modelling professionals are responsible for forecasting a proposed building’s energy efficiency and making recommendations about which design aspects achieve the highest possible building performance in terms of energy efficiency.

They use a number of computer simulation programmes whereby they input data about the proposed building to calculate the building’s energy efficiency, indicated by the building’s Energy Performance Certificate.

However, unlike car and washing machine manufacturers, building modellers are not legally obliged to ensure a building’s certificate matches its performance in real life.

Co-investigator and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Dr Ian Walker added: “Given our findings about how the level of relevant education and experience don’t separate the good modellers from the bad, we are calling on the government for educational and policy change to work with industry and universities to increase efforts in improving building physics education.

“Currently, an in-depth qualification for building modelling does not exist, meaning there is little formal training process for those entering the profession. If this aspect can be addressed, part of the ‘performance gap’ could rapidly be reduced.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/05/02/energy-scandal-misleading-efficiency-claims-leading-huge-bills/

 

The fact that there is seen to be a need for a Professor of Low Carbon Design, rather sums up how nonsensical the whole situation has become.

The insane pursuit of “low carbon” has grown into an end in itself, to the exclusion of all common sense.

Unsurprisingly, it has turned into one huge scam.

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32 Comments
  1. HotScot permalink
    May 3, 2017 1:11 pm

    I’m within 5 years of retirement.

    My wife and I have ambitions to relocate from SE England, back to Scotland. Our desire is to build an energy efficient home, not because it will save CO2, but because it will insulate us (no pun intended) from the cost of insanely rising energy costs caused by the green lunatics deluded, failed, renewables experiment (policy).

    I have my fingers firmly crossed that by the time we do come to move, the equally eco zealous SNP, will be naught but a bad dream.

    • Jack Broughton permalink
      May 3, 2017 1:21 pm

      I hope that you are right about the SNP being a bad dream. Good luck with that!

      The fact that a low-carbon professor and a lecturer in psychology can pontificate about building design alone indicates that the hypothesis is faulty. The green lobby have caused all sorts of building problems with their drive to cavity wall insulation (= dampness) and low carbon footprints to justify other stupidity.

      The authors will undoubtedly be feted on the BBC and nutty press for their diligent research.

      • HotScot permalink
        May 3, 2017 1:45 pm

        Jack,

        with any luck, there are enough sane people left in Scotland to vote Conservative at the coming GE to at least neutralise the SNP. I don’t for a moment imagine they’ll be kicked out, but the insane ‘one party state’ Scotland ‘enjoys’ now, might be curbed.

        Come the next GE, and with the SNP both tying itself in knots, and another questionable tilt at independence, they should be history by the time we take up residence.

        I have taught my kids their nightly prayer whilst they kneel by their bedside: Bless Mummy, Bless Daddy, Bless my sister, Bless the dog and Bless the Scottish Conservative Party :):)

    • roger permalink
      May 3, 2017 3:51 pm

      In five years time here in Scotland your energy efficient home will need to run on unicorn farts on the days weeks and occasional months that the wind does not blow.
      We will by then have scrapped all generators other than wind and solar and will rely on rUK to cover.
      Of course a rUK that has independence from Scotland at that time will have no compulsion to supply the massive shortfall north of the border nor will it be compelled to buy renewable surpluses when the wind does blow.
      A pragmatic and dispassionate rethink might be in order before relocating to this putative would be outpost of the EUSSR.

    • JasG permalink
      May 5, 2017 12:00 pm

      And how is the tory party eco-strategy any different pray tell? This tory party was responsible for the closure of Longannet thanks to new punitive tory taxes and giving free rein to a now (crazily) private monopoly – the national grid – much against the strong demands of the SNP that such a closure would be sheer lunacy. This tory party has also attempted to cripple North Sea Oil exploration with further punitive taxation; again against the protests of the SNP and the recommendations of the Wood report. Gummers tory energy advisers wish more wind and solar energy upon us purely because they are all getting kickbacks. The tory energy minister has declared that all coal plants should close by 2020. You need to take a reality check: Nobody except Ukip has a sound energy policy but the tory policy is actually worse than that of the SNP!

      The fact that the SNP has absolutely no power to influence UK energy policy is one of the main complaints of the SNP. Trying to get more money for windmills in the only bulwark they have against tory coal-fired destruction. And yes now Scotland officially has 50% of it’s energy from renewables. The fact is, Scotland is the only place where wind energy has any chance of success.

      To reduce energy costs though you’d be smarter moving to Spain where at least solar panels might work but where in any event much of the time you just go outside to warm up.

      • HotScot permalink
        May 5, 2017 6:30 pm

        “And how is the tory party eco-strategy any different pray tell?”

        For a start, they are at least considering kicking the Climate act into touch.

        “This tory party was responsible for the closure of Longannet”

        And what disasters was Labour responsible for, well Blair for getting the AGW ball rolling in this country for one.

        I agree with you on the crazy privatisation of the national grid, other than like any nationalised industry, it was costing the country a fortune.

        “much against the strong demands of the SNP that such a closure would be sheer lunacy.”

        Is there anything the Conservatives do that the SNP doesn’t reject out of hand?

        “This tory party has also attempted to cripple North Sea Oil exploration with further punitive taxation”

        On the one hand, you people bleat about the disgusting profits oil companies make, the very profits that are the bedrock of many a pension portfolio, then you have the cheek to turn round and criticise a government for taxing the rich.

        “again against the protests of the SNP”

        Surprise, surprise.

        “Gummers tory energy advisers wish more wind and solar energy upon us purely because they are all getting kickbacks.”

        I’m sure you can prove that, so I’ll wait patiently until you publish the evidence in a national newspaper and become obscenely wealthy yourself.

        “Nobody except Ukip has a sound energy policy”

        Well that’s comforting to know, considering today’s events.

        “The fact that the SNP has absolutely no power to influence UK energy policy is one of the main complaints of the SNP.”

        Guess why they’re not given any, because they would sp*nk it all on windmills.

        “The tory energy minister has declared that all coal plants should close by 2020.”

        Driven by the demands of the insane greens, the barmy EU and the SNP’s inability to understand anything other than their own survival, at the cost of everything, including Scotland.

        But don’t get me wrong here, I’m as much for independence as any other YES voting Scot, but to cut loose at the last referendum, and if they get another referendum, to cut loose then, is simply economic suicide. The best bet for Scotland all along has been to pursue further devolved powers until its in a position to ensure it’s own independent prosperity before a tilt at independence itself. But the SNP couldn’t, and cant wait because the clock has been ticking ever since they gained power. They are now on the slide. TaTa independence for another 100 years.

        “Trying to get more money for windmills in the only bulwark they have against tory coal-fired destruction.”

        Please don’t excuse the SNP’s crackpot policies and desire for their own survival on a Conservative governments policies. They were howling for independence under a Labour, and Conservative/LibDem coalition governments long before Cameron was voted in. They have consistently undermined any government in Westminster rather than working with them. Especially May’s government, by trying to take advantage of the country when section 50 was delivered by demanding another Indyref. Talk about getting their comeuppance, May really screwed them and the SNP idiots must be gutted.

        “Scotland officially has 50% of it’s energy from renewables.”

        That’ll be 50% subsidised by the rest of the UK taxpayers money.

        “The fact is, Scotland is the only place where wind energy has any chance of success.”

        As opposed to where? Scandinavia? Germany? Does the wind only blow in Scotland. Bizarre statement.

        “To reduce energy costs though you’d be smarter moving to Spain”

        No need, with a house designed to merely approach Passive Haus standards, the need for heating is almost completely eliminated, even in temperatures well below zero.

        Now, before you think about replying, consider this. We have both had our rant on the SNP, despite this not being the forum for it.

        How about we agree to disagree and not bore the good folks on this blog.

  2. May 3, 2017 1:31 pm

    I read this article in my iPad issue of today’s Telegraph and thought that it takes a special kind of incompetence to build a school in the far south of England that uses more energy in one month than a similar structure built 60 years ago uses in a year.

    • HotScot permalink
      May 3, 2017 1:46 pm

      The greens have that special kind of incompetence in abundance.

    • Curious George permalink
      May 3, 2017 2:49 pm

      The explanation given is priceless: “There is very little regulation.” Let’s get back to 1950s regulation.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        May 4, 2017 12:49 pm

        But the Building Regulations are much greater than they were in the 1950s. Most of it green bollox.

    • Annie permalink
      May 4, 2017 3:45 am

      Incompetence bordering on the criminal I rather think.

      • JasG permalink
        May 5, 2017 12:04 pm

        Of course a different slant is that it is capitalists capitalising on the weak in society once again – by lying through their teeth!

  3. rwoollaston permalink
    May 3, 2017 1:31 pm

    One of the reasons that it would be very difficult to enforce an energy efficiency standard on buildings is that there is no reliable metric for usage – unlike vehicles where mileage is used.

    • HotScot permalink
      May 3, 2017 1:47 pm

      There will be very soon, soaring energy costs.

    • Allan M permalink
      May 3, 2017 4:23 pm

      Let’s use milage as the standard, then. It means all the answers will be zero or infinity.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    May 3, 2017 1:50 pm

    In defence of those creating the models underestimating energy consumption in all those new homes, schools and offices: Could it be that they factored-in the beneficial heating effect of Global Warming, which so far has failed to materialise, and consequently the shortfall has to be bought-in by building owners?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      May 4, 2017 12:52 pm

      My house uses less CH if the sun has been shining on it all day. I can use the heat stored in the conservatory to warm the lounge – I think they call it the greenhouse effect or something. But this cold miserable weather yesterday and today brings the CH on.

  5. Dave Ward permalink
    May 3, 2017 1:52 pm

    “The difference between how much energy a building is predicted to use and how much it uses in reality has been known in the industry for decades, and is dubbed the ‘performance gap”

    We’ve known for decades that “official” car fuel efficiency figures bear little relationship with reality. The testing regime in closed booths, with no aerodynamic drag, alternators disconnected, etc invariably gives unrealistic results. It lead to many cars suffering “flat spots” in their drive-ability to give better results in the 56mph/80kph fixed speed test, and also gave rise to VW’s so called “defeat device”. And this is wrongly described – it’s nothing more than some extra lines of code in the ECU software which identifies specific routines in the government tests, and alters the engine fuelling parameters to artificially improve emissions. It is a further extension of the “flat spot” tweaking, and a natural result of imposing artificial targets, rather than working towards genuine, overall improvement.

    “However, unlike car and washing machine manufacturers, building modellers are not legally obliged to ensure a building’s certificate matches its performance in real life”

    Since when has a car (or washing machine) manufacturer been prosecuted for supplying unrealistic results? Their adverts typically include a disclaimer, anyway…

    “When one school in Plymouth was rebuilt, the energy bills for a month ended up costing the same as for an entire year in the old 1950s building”

    I’m sorry, but I simply don’t believe this. There HAS to be more to it – most likely the occupants no longer worried about turning appliances off! There was a report from Australia recently showing that homeowners with solar panels actually use MORE electricity than their neighbours without. It’s an example of the Greens worst nightmare – allow people to have abundant, affordable energy and they will use lots of it!

    • Mickey permalink
      May 3, 2017 3:58 pm

      I thought the same thing. If anyone finds a data source reference to the “school in Plymouth” please let us know.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      May 4, 2017 12:56 pm

      VW were faking the approval tests with their software so that is an offence. The disconnect between the results of the approvals and the real world is not that important since all vehicles do the same so the results are a valid metric to help choose between vehicles.

      The school does seem a massive difference.

      One factor I can offer up for increased energy use is – curtains! Drive around, wander around after dark and just see how few people use curtains. A massive heat loss through the windows.

  6. May 3, 2017 2:17 pm

    There is very little activity allowed in the UK that is not now the subject of some sort of green scam, which we all pay for one way or another. A brief list:
    Energy
    Transport
    Food
    Water
    Waste
    Buildings
    Environment

    • May 3, 2017 4:18 pm

      Plus insurance, as featured on the BBC today, but don’t worry, our increased premiums will take care of it.

  7. May 3, 2017 2:49 pm

    ‘The insane pursuit of “low carbon” has grown into an end in itself’.

    Yes, and it’s a dead end, but everyone is expected to ‘play the game’.

  8. Bloke down the pub permalink
    May 3, 2017 5:27 pm

    Unfortunately, this story is not exactly new. Some years back, I saw a programme that complained about the low standard of new build housing. One of the issues they identified was that on a new housing development, only a few percent of the buildings are tested for how air-tight they are. For the show, they tested an house that had not been tested by the builders. Normally the house is sealed and the air pumped out to create a partial vacuum and the time is recorded as to how long it takes for the air pressure to return to normal. In this case, the house was so drafty that they were unable to get the pressure low enough to do the test. It turned out that behind a radiator in a bedroom, a section of plasterboard was missing. You can have the best models in the world, but it doesn’t mean Jack if the builders are crap.

  9. Ian Magness permalink
    May 3, 2017 6:27 pm

    “Modelling, which is not ‘it for purpose.”
    Dear me, SURELY NOT!!!!
    That’s UNPRECEDENTED.

  10. Ian Magness permalink
    May 3, 2017 6:28 pm

    “fit”!

  11. May 4, 2017 7:26 am

    Could it be that the boiler efficiency is less than specified?

    I see that many condensing boilers are rated at 90% efficiency or more!!!!
    IMHO these figures look improbably high
    I cannot see how any boiler could have such a high efficeincy under all climactic conditions. Surely in subzero weather the condensate should appear as ice and not water?(if efficiency were 90%)
    http://www.homeheatingguide.co.uk/efficiency-tables.php?make=Vaillant

  12. andy mckendrick permalink
    May 4, 2017 8:00 am

    Just back from polling booth ,voted Conservative , first time in thirty years.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      May 4, 2017 12:59 pm

      I hope to make it back from the pub in time to vote in my first local election for decades. Ukip will get my cross….unless I imbibe too much and draw a box on the back for Marine Le Pen, although I maybe should keep that option for the GE.

    • HotScot permalink
      May 5, 2017 10:39 am

      Sensible decision considering the opposition.

      • JasG permalink
        May 5, 2017 12:08 pm

        You mean the least worst alternative!

      • HotScot permalink
        May 5, 2017 7:40 pm

        JasG

        Fair comment, but isn’t that always the case?

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