Innovative EPCs features in Scotland: testing results and replication potential

The focus of the Horizon 2020 project X-tendo is the further development of energy performance certificate (EPCs) schemes in EU Member States. After analysing the theoretical background, the project focused on testing its innovative features in concrete implementation projects. This series of blog post will help summarise the testing in each of the X-tendo 9 countries to understand the practical viability and the challenges in the implementation of the developed ideas and materials.

Depending on the feature, the X-tendo partners performed different types of tests: In-building tests apply the feature materials on concrete buildings, user tests consist of understanding the user perception related to the developed materials and ideas, system tests intend to understand the application of feature ideas and materials in related systems like EPC database systems.

Features and buildings tested in UK

In UK, precisely in Scotland, the X-tendo’s partner EST, the Energy Saving Trust, tested two features to enhance current energy performance certificates: enhanced recommendations and one-stop shops.

The first feature was tested as In-building and system testing on 10 single-family buildings, whereas the one-stop shops one was tested with interview and questionnaires on three focus groups.

Summary of results from the testing

Enhanced Recommendations

EST tested this feature through in-building testing: a calculation spreadsheet tool was provided with instructions and descriptions for providing recommended renovation measures. Generally, the X-tendo calculation tool turned out to be useful and easy to use. The main barriers to testing were around not having access to all the input data required for the calculation tool, because it wasn’t captured presently by the country’s EPCs. As EST states, ‘Some complicated inputs are required that an assessor in the field would have difficulty providing, limiting use in the real world (e.g., thermal coefficient values).’.

One-stop shops

Home Energy Scotland, managed centrally by the Energy Saving Trust on behalf of the Scottish Government, is a developed one stop shop, covering advice, financing and supply chain engagement for everyone living in Scotland.

Advice is provided at local level across Scotland by five local agencies over the telephone, by email and in-person by advice agents based in each of the local agencies. In addition to this one-stop shops smart meters are being rolled out across Scotland providing householders with personalised access to their energy bills data on a half hourly basis. The Energy Saving Trust has developed a pilot data interface to allow advisors to see householders’ smart meter data when the householder gives permission for this. Home Energy Scotland advice to householders in Scotland is already informed by the Energy Performance Certificate data for their home, but EPC data and recommendations are based on an asset-based assessment, that is very different from the real energy use data available from smart meters. Therefore, there is a challenge for advisors working with these two data sets and the Scotland test project helps develop systems to help advisors fill this data gap.

The UK user test was with internal OSS stakeholders to identify system improvements:

  1. Focus group with EST staff involved in managing and planning development of Home Energy Scotland services
  2. Focus group with Advice Agency staff working on delivering the OSS advice “on the ground” across Scotland.
  3. Focus group with advice agency staff – to review and develop findings from two workshops
  4. Questionnaire developed based on findings from the focus groups – to priorities identified barriers and actions. 

Between the barriers and issues identified in the user testing, there problems with EPC data quality, smart meter data technical challenges, legal requirements around consent for GDPR, legal constraints on use of underlying EPC data and on use of Smart Meter data. At the same time, there were also quite some opportunities identified, such as  the ever-growing EPC data , the improvements to EPC processes leading to better quality EPCs, the increasing numbers of people with Smart meters and more interest/awareness of carbon.

Replication potential and conclusions

The X-tendo tool for enhanced recommendations currently forms a solid foundation to supplement (or bridge the gap in assessment tools for areas lacking EPC software/framework) EPC assessments. However, in the view of EST, the calculations require lots of intricate construction data that is not immediately available. An extension of the tool would thus be beneficial and practical to give an estimate of the energy demand for the recommended measures. An example can be to highlight the data that is absolutely essential for the tool to function:  this way, the assessors can focus their efforts in finding the data that are actually essential. In addition, it would also be useful to have a more detailed description of certain input data and the underlying assumptions, that can result in a ‘how to‘ guide with a worked example to explain the steps.

As for one-stop shops, there are a series of improvements that could be applied that came out of the user testing:

  • Use multi-channel conversations and phone/email/on-line tools
  • Use new and especially proactive approaches to engagement
  • Provide trainings for more specialist advisors who are expert in interpreting smart meter data.
  • Research and make greater use of theory of behavioural change, that can help identify the additional data and insight to provide to customers
  • Improve consents process with greater use of online consents agreement
  • Develop a case managed call process and agree what areas the customer wants to have a conversation about, and then create an advice plan
  • Develop and advise on a Building Renovation Plan that each home can have and can be used to structure advice. Scotland does not yet have a developed building passport/logbook approach integrated with OSS shop advice, but it would help provide more personalised advice.

For more information on testing and recommendations, read the full report Implementation guidelines and replicability potential of the innovative features for the next generation EPCs here


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