There has been plenty of coverage of the forthcoming changes to the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) affecting commercial property in the UK. But with the April 1 deadline rapidly approaching, it seems that there is a long way to go before the sector gets close to achieving compliance.
Originally established as part of the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) regulations of 2015, MEES initially specified that property owners could not grant a tenancy to new or existing tenants of properties with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F or G – the categories considered as being ‘sub-standard’.
But under the changes coming into effect on 1 April 2023, it will also be unlawful to continue to let properties with an F or G EPC rating. This means that all let commercial properties will need to have a minimum rating of E, and those currently falling below that will need all cost-effective energy efficiency improvements prescribed by MEES to be made by the deadline.
The exceptions are those buildings that do not need an EPC anyway – such as temporary premises or warehouses that do not require energy to condition the indoor climate – along with those to which a limited number of stated exemptions apply, including:
Consent exemption: The owner/landlord requires consent from the tenant in order to carry out works to bring the building up to the required standard, and the tenant has refused.
Improvements already made: All the relevant energy efficiency improvements have been undertaken (or there are none that can be made), yet the property remains sub-standard.
Seven-year payback: The landlord can demonstrate that the predicted energy cost-saving over a period of seven years is less than the expense of the improvements.
It is very likely that the majority of commercial buildings in the UK will not be covered by the exemptions. Therefore, for landlords/owners whose properties presently fall into the ‘sub-standard’ ratings, there is no time to waste.
Failure to act will lead to both serious reputational and financial damage, with penalties for breaches lasting longer than 3 months potentially being as high as £150,000.
Wherever possible, landlords should work in close cooperation with their tenants, who will surely be welcoming of the lower energy costs at a time when prices are so high. A thorough review of building technologies will also be crucial in many cases. For example, the use of occupancy sensors and more effective heating and cooling management can make a huge difference in energy consumption.
But ultimately, it’s going to be a powerful building management system (BMS) that is the wisest single investment in most instances. This is where Priva can help. Not only is this sensible on an operational level by delivering easy overall control of building systems, it also enables the systematic monitoring and analysis of data from all aspects of a property. This allows wasted energy to be quickly identified and addressed, leading to further cost and efficiency benefits for owners and tenants.
In our next blog, we’ll look at the proposed further tightening of MEES regulations later this decade that will render a good BMS even more indispensable.