Using energy efficiency of buildings data to better target fuel poverty programmes

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Local Insight provides the underlying contextual information of any place and the people that live there, so that decisions can be based upon evidence, and resources targeted most effectively. And we are always looking to broaden the types of data available and the ways in which you can interact with, analyse and share that data.

“The Usual Suspects” such as  Census & Indices of Deprivation are a great place to start when looking at the characteristics of a place (and used by virtually all policy decision makers for good reason!). However, some of the more ‘off the beaten track’ datasets provide really interesting insights into much more specific issues.

For example, our most recent additions to Local Insight; data on energy performance of buildings. On it’s own, it can give interesting indications of which areas have higher proportions of energy efficient or inefficient buildings. And when used alongside other indicators, and compared across different areas, can contribute to our understanding of fuel poverty and ensure that resources tackling these issues are directed to the right places.

About the data

Data on the energy performance of buildings is based upon Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) from Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). These give an indication of how energy efficient a building is and are given a rating from A (very efficient) to G (very inefficient). It also details how energy-efficient the building could be if improvements were made.

Previously, records could be purchased at £0.11 per home. But now, householders, businesses and researchers can freely access the EPC register – hoorah!

Some of the datasets have been aggregated to Output Area level by the Consumer Data Research Centre, which we have included within Local Insight. These datasets are:

  • Current average energy efficiency (domestic buildings): The average energy efficiency of buildings in the area, based on  the cost of energy per year per meter squared of the building. Energy efficiency scores range from 1 to 100 with 100 being the most efficient.
  • Potential average energy efficiency (domestic buildings): The estimated potential energy efficiency of the buildings in the area
  • Difference between current and potential energy efficiency (domestic buildings): This measure highlights places with the greatest, or least, potential to improve. A larger number suggests greater potential to increase energy efficiency
  • Percentage of domestic buildings rated as A: The percentage of inspected domestic buildings that are rated as A, the most energy efficient rating
  • Percentage of domestic buildings with potential to be rated as A: Similar to above, this is an estimate of the number of buildings that could be rated as A
  • Difference between those rated as A and potentially rated as A: Indicates areas where the greatest potential for improvement is.

Challenges

There are some known issues regarding EPCs and inaccuracies with the methodology and data collection, however they continue to be a very useful measure of energy efficiency. Therefore, when using the data there are a few caveats to bear in mind, so that data is not misinterpreted.

The most relevant of these are:

  • Outdated and duplicated EPC information on the register, that’s not straightforward to identify.
  • Only homes that have been built, bought, sold or retrofitted since 2008 have an EPC, which represents about 50 to 60 per cent of homes within a local authority area. So a significant number of homes will have no data at all.

We have highlighted these limitations in the metadata for each of the indicators in Local Insight.

What can it be used for?

Benchmarking local areas against national policies and targets.

The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) sets out targets to reduce final energy consumption by 18%, relative to the 2007 business-as-usual projection by 2020. To achieve these targets, the way we manage and use our energy needs to change significantly. Data on the energy efficiency of buildings can be a useful aid in understanding how your local area is faring compared to the national average and other statistical neighbours. This could support research into the extent, causes or consequences of lower levels of efficiency, and influence future, local policy.

The role of local community energy groups is potentially vital to achieving these targets. The Community Energy Strategy brings together a number of policies and initiatives across the community energy sphere. Use of contextual information about the local state of energy efficiency versus the potential energy efficiency could be a valuable resource to inform strategic and data-driven decision making to target resources most effectively.

Target particular demographic groups likely to be living in fuel poverty

Energy efficiency data has powerful implications for resource allocation in relation to fuel poverty. More than 2.3 million homes are living in fuel poverty in England and evidence indicates that around 30% of excess winter deaths in the UK are linked to cold homes.

Data on the energy efficiency of buildings can be used in combination with other social indicators, to identify areas that are likely to have a higher prevalence of people living in fuel poverty. For example, looking at energy efficiency data alongside Indices of Deprivation, housing tenure (e.g. owner occupied, private rented, social rented) and income status to identify areas containing a high proportion of fuel poor households under the LIHC definition.

This could be used further, to drill down to specific demographic groups, such as older people – or households with children under five years of age to identify priority areas for fuel poverty programmes to ensure that the most vulnerable, in the most energy inefficient households are reached.

Case study: Links between energy efficiency and respiratory & cardiovascular diseases

Data on home energy efficiency is being used as part of a study, aiming to build a picture of the links between energy efficiency and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. The research project “modelling the impact of fuel poverty and energy efficiency on health” is being carried out by partners across Devon & Cornwall, including University of Exeter, Public Health Devon, Public Health Cornwall and CCGs. More details on this project can be found on Energy Saving Trust’s blog.

Research findings have not yet been published. However this is a prime example of the wide-reaching potential of local level open data to transcend different disciplines and policy areas when analysed in conjunction with other information. By bringing together disparate datasets, researchers and policy-makers can identify links and test assumptions in order to ensure policy and commissioning decisions are based upon evidence.

Explore the data for yourself

The data is available within Local Insight, alongside more than 800 other neighbourhood level datasets. Explore the data for yourself with a free trial of Local Insight to:

  • See how your wards, local authority, parliamentary constituencies (and any other neighbourhood you like) fares on energy efficiency indicators
  • Build a dashboard of energy efficiency indicators alongside other socio-economic datasets to gain insights into likely prevalence of fuel poverty
  • Test your assumptions to ensure that your fuel poverty programmes are being targeted towards those most in need
  • Share with local partners so that everybody working in energy efficiency and fuel poverty has the information they need to make key strategic decisions.