Display Energy Certificates

Since October 2008 occupiers of public buildings with floor areas of more than 1000m2 (roughly 10,000ft2), have been required to have a Display Energy Certificate (DEC).

DECs were introduced to raise public awareness of energy use by displaying the actual energy use and energy efficiency of the buildings they visit. This is based on records of gas, electricity and other meter readings or fuel delivery records in the case of oil or solid fuel. DECs include an A-G energy rating for the building, where A has the lowest CO2 emissions (best) and G the highest CO2 emissions (worst). The certificate is similar to those that are required for fridges and many other new white goods.

The rating is also shown as a number. A typical building of its type would have a rating of 100 and a building with twice the typical CO2 emissions would have a rating of 200 (or G). The DEC rating shows whether the occupier is using energy well or badly and the trend over the last three years.

It is estimated that 40,000 buildings will require DECs, a large proportion of which will be schools. The regulations apply to individual buildings, so school sites with several large buildings will need more than one certificate. Similarly, where individual buildings, for example smaller blocks and temporary classrooms, are each less than 1000m2 a DEC is not required even if the total floor area of the school exceeds 1000m2.

All buildings over 1000m2 in floor area require a certificate, and fuel consumption can be apportioned based on floor area where there are not separate meters on individual buildings. A copy must be displayed in each qualifying building. Guidance to support the production of site-based DECs is available on the Communities and Local Government (CLG) website.

The DECs should be clearly displayed at all times in a prominent place clearly visible to the public. A DEC is accompanied by an Advisory Report which does not need to be displayed and lists effective measures to improve the energy rating of the building. DECs are valid for one year, and therefore require updating annually. The accompanying Advisory Report is valid for seven years. Both must be produced by an accredited energy assessor.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is additionally required when a building is constructed, sold or let. The EPC rating shows how the building has been constructed, not how it is used. See Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) webpage from CLG.

Find an energy assessor

Energy assessors may be part of larger accreditation schemes. To find an accreditation scheme for DECs visit the CLG website on the EPBD. All accredited energy assessors are also recorded on the national register. A list of currently accredited energy assessors can be found on the national register, which can be accessed by following the link on the right-hand side of this page.

Failing to display a DEC

DECs must be displayed from 1 October 2008. The penalty for failure to display a DEC is £500 and a further £1000 for failing to obtain an Advisory Report. The legislation is enforceable by every Local Weights and Measures Authority. The legislation defines 'building' and buildings separated by link corridors can be regarded as separate buildings if they are designed to be used separately. Full details can be found in the guidance on the EPBD webpage from CLG.

Energy Performance of Buildings Directive legislation

The reason why the EPBD has been introduced is to encourage good energy management of buildings. For example, it has been shown in UK that where schools monitor their energy consumption and carry out no-cost good-housekeeping energy-saving measures they can save on average 15 per cent of their energy bills. Simple monitoring of energy consumption in schools will identify where waste is occurring and allow these savings to be made. A further ten per cent saving can almost always be made with low-cost measures which should provide a payback in less than five years. The IEA Annex 36 website and the Carbon Trust provide advice to help identify these low cost measures.

Legislation setting out the requirement

In April 2008, Statutory Instrument 2007/991 was published to implement Articles 7, 9 and 10 of the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The Statutory Instrument (SI) is accompanied by an explanatory memorandum. The SI requires all public buildings in England and Wales from which a publicly-funded service is provided and which are frequently visited by the public to display their energy performance to the public by means of Display Energy Certificates (DECs). DECs and accompanying Advisory Reports are required for all public buildings with a floor area of over 1000m2.

Legal responsibility

The commissioning and display of the DECs in respect of schools is the responsibility of the building occupier and they will be liable for any fines for failure to display certificates.

How much will DECs cost?

The cost of a DEC certificate depends on information that the school or LA can make available to the assessor. The occupier, in collaboration with the energy assessor, will need to know the floor area of the building being assessed, and actual meter readings or consignment notes for all fuels used in the building over the period of one calendar year. Where the school has accurate meter readings for the last 12 months up to the date of the certificate and reasonably accurate floor areas or plans from which they can be measured the cost should be relatively low. Where estimates of fuel consumption have to be calculated because of incomplete or estimated fuel bills or floor areas need to be measured, higher costs will be incurred.

Who pays for DECs?

The 'occupier' of a school is the LA where the school is community, voluntary controlled or community special; and otherwise the governing body (section 78 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998). However under local management of schools, the costs falling to the school, for all of which the authority is formally responsible as maintainer, are generally to be met from the school's delegated budget share (sections 45 to 51 of the SSFA 1998). LAs may provide a buy-back service for their schools to carry out the DEC assessments and reports. Alternatively schools can commission their own accredited assessors to carry out the work.

What should schools do next?

As a minimum:

  • Record electricity and gas meter readings annually. Remember to record all meter readings on or close to the same date so that the assessor has access to a simple record of the annual consumption. Free software 'KULU', is available for logging energy and water readings, or a simple spreadsheet can be used. A link is available from this page.
  • Obtain or calculate the floor area of your buildings. In 1999-2000, the Department required LAs to return gross floor areas for all their school buildings as part of the condition data of Asset Management Plans. Therefore figures should be available from that date. LAs will therefore usually have reasonably accurate gross floor area data for most of their schools. However there may have been subsequent demolition or construction of new buildings since 2000.

Between 1999-2003, the Department also asked for annual Energy Consumption Data returns from LAs. Most schools and LAs did this. The Department also asked for energy consumption data for the years 2003-2006 in 2006 but the number of returns was much fewer than in 2003. This suggests that there will not now be energy consumption data easily available for many schools.

If you apply to an assessor for a DEC and you have no energy records you will be given a G rating, the worst rating possible. This will however avoid the school being liable to a fine for not displaying a DEC and will avoid the need for expensive and usually inaccurate estimation of energy consumption. As soon as a year's worth of energy data is available the DEC assessment can be repeated and an accurate rating will result. It is therefore very important to start to take regular meter readings as soon as possible unless the LA has installed an automated system to do this.

Good practice

It is good practice to record meter readings every month (or weekly) so that records can be compared with previous years' figures for the same month. This helps to determine when changes in use occur and identify the causes of high usage or energy and water losses. Smart meters can be used to automatically record energy and water consumption. The data can also be automatically collected by the energy suppliers from these meters so that estimates and manual meter readings are no longer required. They can be fitted to the main incoming meters on the water, electricity and gas with a single communication interface. They can also provide real time data for use in the curriculum, e.g. in mathematics or design technology. Regular accurate data will also make it relatively easy for an assessor to produce the Advisory report. Free advice on saving energy is available from the Department and other organisations such as the Carbon Trust.

Further measures towards a carbon neutral school

Energy and water is one of the doorways for Sustainable Schools. Savings can easily be made by carrying out no-cost and low-cost energy and water-saving measures. See: A Bursars' guide to sustainable schools operation and the Top Tips to reduce energy and water and waste in schools published by the Department in 2007.

Related web content

  • Guidance for site-based DECs.
  • A guide to DECs and advisory reports for public buildings is available from the Communities and Local Government EPBD webpage.
  • National register of accredited energy assessors.
  • Information on assessments: CIBSE and RICS.
  • Departmental Top Tips to reduce energy and water use in schools.
  • Departmental Top Tips to reduce waste in schools.
  • Departmental good practice energy and water management guide for schools.
  • Carbon Trust Schools.
  • Energy Performance of Buildings (Department for Communities and Local Government).
  • The Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/991).
  • The Explanatory Memorandum and Transposition Note
  • Annex 36
  • KULU web-tool for recording energy and water readings.