To claim the top rate of feed-in tariff from 1 April 2012 all buildings to which solar PV panels are mounted or wired must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of at least band D. As the average house in England and Wales doesn't quite make it into band D, this means that many people will have to improve the energy efficiency of their house or office to qualify for the tariff.
What is an EPC
Energy Performance Certificates measure how energy efficient a building is. It is compulsory to have one done if you are selling or renting out a property. Until now they have tended to been swept under the carpet by estate agents who see them as an irritating bit of red tape. Although, with energy bills on an upward trend, it makes sense to examine your EPC closely before buying or renting, as they are a good guide to how much the building will cost to run.
Going forward EPCs will get more and more of a high profile: now for eligibility to the feed-in tariff for solar PV, and later the software with which they are calculated will also inform the renewable heat incentive and the Green Deal.
Speaking at the Solar Power UK Roadshow, MCS committee member, and founder of Sundog Energy, Martin Cotterell explained that EPCs are derived from an assessment of fuel cost per m2. They are based on standard assumptions of occupancy rates and assumed heating and electricity usage. This means that they may not reflect the actual energy usage in a building, which will depend on the number of inhabitants and their behaviour.
If you think your EPC is wrong, read more about the action you can take here.
The EPC will give you an Energy Efficiency Rating score, and outline what measures you may take to improve the rating, and what they are likely to cost.
What the changes mean for people thinking of installing solar PV
If your building is already at EPC level D, then you don't have to do anything.
However, if it is lower that D you will need to bring it up to level D to claim the feed-in tariff. You must provide an EPC certificate of D or above, with your MCS certificate, to register the system in the FiTs scheme.
Depending on what score your building gets now, the installation of solar panels may be enough on their own to bring it up to D. The only way to find out is to put the data into the EPC software. It is based on complex algorithms, and is unwise to guesstimate what effect any measure will have on the score.
The rate of feed-in tariff for those with an EPC level D is 21p per kWh generated for systems of 4KW and less. Without, it will be just 9p per kW (to find out how the feed-in tariff works click here). This will have a significant impact on rate of return, so it is important to be really clear about what measures you need to achieve D before you sign any contracts for the installation of solar PV.
EPCs are issued by domestic energy assessors (DEAs). Solar installers can qualify as a DEA, or they can partner with one, to make sure your property will meet the requirements. However, there have been some rogue practitioners at the cheaper end of the EPC market doing drive-by assessments, so make sure that your DEA does a thorough inspection, as it's you who stands to lose most if your property does not reach the required standard.
More information about EPCs and solar electricity from YouGen