After four long years since the referendum, the UK is finally about to leave the EU. During this period the government has undertaken a number of consultations to decide how best to move forward. Decisions on whether to keep, modify or completely scrap existing EU legislative directives such as TM44 legislation have been an important part of determining how the UK will look post-Brexit.
One such regulation is the European Performance of Buildings Directive, or EPBD for short. First introduced in 2008, it’s purpose was to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in EU states. As part of this directive, a number of initiatives were introduced, one of which was TM44 Air Conditioning Inspections. These 5 yearly assessments analyze how efficient a buildings air conditioning systems are and provide insight as to how they can be improved. In May 2020, the government undertook a consultation to determine whether or not changes to these inspections should be made.
What changes were proposed to current TM44 legislation?
Currently, a building requires a TM44 inspection if the combined output of its air conditioning systems is 12kw or more. The recent consultation proposed increasing that threshold to 70kw. A change that would significantly reduce the number of UK buildings which meet the requirements. This seems a strange move considering the government recently committed to reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. Furthermore, given that UK buildings account for 34% of our total greenhouse gas emissions, the proposed change seems counter-intuitive.
What was the purpose of the consultation?
According to the consultation documents, the proposed change to TM44 legislation was to streamline the inspection regime and target systems with the greatest potential for carbon and energy savings. However, it recognized raising the threshold would mean that potential carbon savings for smaller systems would be lost.
Response to the TM44 legislation consultation
Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of responses to the proposed changes were negative. A staggering 87% of respondents stated the threshold should not be increased to 70kw. The majority of respondents felt the change would result in lost carbon savings for many UK properties. Additionally, the loss of business to energy assessors across the UK was a significant concern. Many felt this would lead to assessors leaving the profession due to decreased demand. Many felt his could lead to lower competition within the industry and push inspection costs upwards.
One of the most interesting findings included within the report is the estimated compliance level with current TM44 legislation. Despite the directive being in place for over 10 years, stakeholders suggest that less than 20% of all UK buildings which meet the requirements are actually compliant. Most respondents to the consultation felt that the current enforcement, which is the responsibility of local trading standards authorities, was insufficient at best.
Surely then, if the government wants to achieve its own target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, relaxing TM44 legislation is a step in the wrong direction. A better initiative would be to find ways of improving enforcement.
What did the government decide?
Following the overwhelmingly negative response to the consultation the government decided to maintain the legislation as it is. This means the threshold will remain at 12kw even after the UK leaves the EU.
Though they recognized the need for greater enforcement of TM44 legislation, increasing the monetary fines associated with non-compliance is not something they will be pursuing just yet. Although, following the consultation it seems inevitable that greater policing of the directive will be a priority as they look to realize their 2050 carbon targets.