The Each Home Counts – Bonfield Review has finally been published and considers issues relating to consumer advice, protection, standards and enforcement in relation to home energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in the UK.
The report was initially commissioned in 2015 at the behest of former energy secretary Amber Rudd and former communities secretary Greg Clark in the wake of the demise of the Green Deal and focuses on protecting the consumer.
The review “seeks to ensure that, in the future, conventional measures, such as insulation, always deliver the quality levels and outcomes that consumers have every right to expect, underpinned by the protection, service and advice so critical for householders. It also seeks to ensure that new opportunities offered through the roll-out of smart meters and other energy efficiency and renewable energy measures fulfil their potential in a way that informs and protects householders.”
The key recommendation is to establish a quality mark for all energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, and for all companies operating in this sector, with an underlying framework; a charter, code of conduct and codes of practice that must be followed to ensure quality outcomes.
Cross-cutting recommendations include the headings; consumer protection, advice and guidance, quality and standards, skills and training, and compliance and enforcement. Sector specific headings include insulation and fabric, smart meters, home energy technologies and application to social housing. The work streams were contributed to by stakeholders from across the industry, and we contributed in particular to the ‘Insulation and Fabric’ and ‘Skills and Training’ work stream discussions.
The report highlights a series of recommendations to put the consumer first and includes suggestions to:
• Make more of opportunities for engaging and liaising with consumers
• Better use of assessments to gather information on the property and its vicinity and to ensure appropriate design and installation of measures
• Ensure simpler branding in the sector via a Quality Mark
• Improve selling practices to consumers via a consumer charter and code of conduct
• Look at better delivery of quality installations, through codes of practice and standards to align with skills requirements
• Requirements for consistent and robust monitoring alongside the codes of practice and standards;
• Improved long-term consumer protection and a simplified redress system
• Better use and availability of data
• Ensure the benefits of emerging technologies are realised
We welcome the report recommendations and support the idea of a quality mark for the domestic retrofit sector.
The report notes that to obtain the quality mark, installers, designers and assessors will need to show that they have been certified by an approved certification body, and meet the requirements of three key elements of the quality mark: a Code of Conduct, defined Codes of Practice and standards and a Consumer Charter.
The standards framework will build on existing practice, including PAS 2030 and PAS 2031 and will include standards for assessment, design, installation, and operation, with particular attention to commissioning and handover.
The report highlights that, to deliver the right outcomes, the whole of the building fabric needs to be understood and addressing one element while ignoring others, or the interfaces, can generate problems.
As part of the review, we argued for better consideration of the needs of existing properties, raised the necessity of good design to compliment better installation and highlighted the importance of junctions and the importance of adequate ventilation provisions. It is therefore great to see that this has carried through into the final recommendations.
Overall, we feel that there is still a need to help develop more robust retrofit guidance and we welcome work to develop a framework of new and existing standards to better support a national retrofit programme. These will sit alongside the new PAS 2030 / 2031 which is due for publication early in the new year.
As the review notes, standards need to become better integrated with a whole building approach and design incorporated into the process. This approach can then help to prevent individual aspects of home retrofit being considered in isolation (eg solid wall insulation or boiler replacement) which ultimately can lead to unintended consequences in overall building performance.
The publication of this review is an important step in the process, but is not the whole journey; the industry as a whole will need to engage and further build on these recommendations in order to help increase consumer trust and to create the stability and confidence needed for long term growth.