Interview with Brian Scannell of NHER – part 2

Brian Scannell of NHER and managing director of National Energy Services (NES) Ltd continues with further thoughts towards our questions in part 2 of the interview.

Q10 Do you support the current HIP legislation and if it was ‘scrapped’ what impact do you envisage it will have on your members?

I certainly support the original aspirations of the HIP – ensuring that reliable information on a property was available at the time of marketing. It is an absolute tragedy that the most directly beneficial component to consumers – the Home Condition Report – was made voluntary and, to all intents and purposes, killed.

However, the introduction of HIPs has delivered benefits to homebuyers and sellers. Most obviously it has significantly brought down the cost and improved delivery times for searches. We know that is some areas, “exchange ready” packs are being used which genuinely do reduce costs and speed up transactions, reducing the likelihood of sales collapsing.

What worries me about the calls for scrapping HIPs is that no-one is suggesting anything better. HIPs did not emerge from nothing. They were introduced because there were widespread calls to improve the homebuying and selling process. HIPs were the outcome of years of discussions amongst interested parties – estate agents, surveyors, lenders and solicitors. I worry that if HIPs are scrapped, when the housing market recovers (as it surely will in time), we will again see consumers suffering because of the way the market operates. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that the consumer’s interests are actually getting much attention in all of this.

Of course, in some ways, if HIPs disappeared it might potentially benefit energy assessors as it is likely to increase the proportion of EPC commissioned directly by the estate agent, rather than via a HIP provider and DEA panel manager. However, there is also the risk that it would encourage more estate agents to train in-house staff and thereby reduce opportunities for existing qualified individuals.

In general, I am wary of assuming the grass on the other side of the fence is genuinely greener…

Q11 The conservatives talk about extending the validity of an EPC to 10 years as has happened within the rental market, what are your views on this?

I think ten years is far too long a validity period for either rental or sales purposes. The objective of the EPC is to inform prospective buyers or tenants of both the energy efficiency of the building and of the potential for cost effectively improving its energy efficiency. It seems to me to be a complete nonsense to suggest that a ten-year-old EPC is appropriate given the high likelihood of significant increases in energy costs over coming years, as well as the introduction of incentive schemes such as Feed-In Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive, plus changes to the assessment methodology and the possibility of new technologies.

I suspect that the current three-year validity period for marketed sales strikes the right balance between ensuring the rating and recommendations in the EPC are valid, whilst avoiding imposing unnecessary cost on consumers.

The challenge is to ensure that consumers recognise the value of the EPC to them. To understand that it really can help them to reduce their energy costs and their carbon emissions. If we can achieve that, then consumers will demand up to date EPC – which would provide a sound foundation for the long-term health of the industry.

Q12 In regard to the Housing Energy Advisor qualification; what are you thoughts towards this?  Has it potential for improving energy efficiency or will it be merely a sales job with utility companies? Was this not a missed opportunity to extend the role of the DEA?

I was desperately disappointed with the HEA as it finally emerged and it was undoubtedly a missed opportunity. I met on several occasions with CLG officials, lobbying for the role to be a development of the DEA role and to build on the EPC and the accreditation framework that already exists. The impression I have is that CLG largely supported this approach, but that the final decisions on HEA were made by DECC, who appear to have been heavily influenced by the energy companies.

One of the key problems is that the home audit was to be funded through the CERT obligation on energy companies, but the CERT credit for advice provision meant that a visit was only “worth” £10 or so. This was attractive for energy companies if they could claim this off the back of a sales visit, but it didn’t really stack up otherwise. I gather Ofgem have imposed some fairly strict controls on the HEA credits, so we’ve probably ended up in a situation that doesn’t suit anyone.

I understand that CLG have had a much greater say on the proposed Household Energy Management Strategy (HEMS) which will be consulted on shortly, so I hope we will see a greater role for DEA and the EPC, but CLG do need to be reassured on quality issues.

I recognise why the HEA qualification was considered necessary. But I think the distinction between physical and behavioural measures is very unhelpful. The provision of effective advice and support to homeowners requires all of the skills a DEA has, plus the HEA knowledge and the skills to be able to communicate. In reality this is quite a complex and demanding mixture of knowledge and abilities – but I think it is where the industry has to go in order to succeed.

Q13 Will NHER be running a HEA training course? I understand some AS have decided against it for various reasons.

We are introducing online HEA training modules in order to keep the cost as low as possible. These will provide the required knowledge to enable candidates to take the ABBE HEA exam. At the moment we remain unconvinced that gaining the qualification will immediately open up new opportunities, but we think over time opportunities will emerge and in the meantime it is a useful addition to a DEA’s knowledge.

Q14 Thank you for your time and finally what stands NHER apart from the others?

Fundamentally, we are in this business because we believe in the goal of reducing energy waste – saving money and reducing emissions. As such, we want consumers to have faith in EPC and energy assessors and to develop the role to move beyond information into advice and implementation. So what makes us different is our focus on the quality of the services we provide and our commitment to the future of our industry.

We would like to thank Brian Scannell and NHER for their co-operation with the interview and take this opportunity to wish them good luck with their new blog.  We are sure it will become essential reading – NHER Insight Blog.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Comments are closed.