As 2020 closed, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) gazetted regulations for Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) that make it compulsory for building owners to display a certificate of the building’s ‘energy performance’ at its entrance. This heralds the start of the monitoring and evaluation of buildings’ energy related data. The South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) is tasked with the management and storage of all the data under the National Building Energy Performance Register and will track progress of the achievement of the goals and targets set out in the EPC regulations. This is in keeping with their mandate under The National Energy Act 2008 (Act 34 of 2008), to promote energy efficiency throughout the economy.
According to the International Energy Agency, buildings account for approximately 30% of global energy consumption and 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions. These figures could easily increase in South Africa due to increasing urbanisation. As pressure increases on the grid it is imperative to prepare for energy security by adopting various efficiency measures and looking into the mix of renewable energy sources.
GBCSA CEO, Lisa Reynolds, explains that implementation of this new policy is “about future proofing and developing energy security. In the long term not only will this lead to cost saving but also to mitigation of risk.”
Most countries in the European Union have been implementing EPCs for over a decade and now all categories of buildings have to comply. An example of this is in Paris where all houses for sale must have an EPC before any transactions can take place. It is a bit like considering the fuel consumption of a vehicle before purchasing it – the energy certificate classifies a building’s energy performance, contributing to its sale and rental value.
Building owners are encouraged to consider how the EPCs will enable South Africa to follow through on its commitment at the Paris Accord to address climate change. The EPCs act as a tool that gives clients a snapshot view of their building energy performance. With this knowledge, informed decisions relating to energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy integration can be made for future improvements.
Standards governing the EPC
SANS 1544, the Energy Performance Certificate standard, outlines the methodology by which energy performance is measured for existing buildings and takes into account unoccupied floor areas/vacancies and mixed-use buildings. It is important to note that the non-use of energy does not count as energy efficiency for unoccupied buildings. The standard maps out all the data of the building that needs to be collected to enable it to be audited by an independent third party. The independent inspection bodies (third parties) must be South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) accredited. The regulation is indirectly a source of job creation as more and more of these inspection bodies are formed.
It has been a journey over the past 15 years to get to finalisation of the regulation for the EPCs. The standard was published in 2014 and is likely to undergo revisions as new learnings are incorporated.
According to Reynolds there are laws and standards that cover new buildings, but there is a huge existing stock of buildings that were built before energy performance considerations. The challenge is figuring out how to push existing building stock towards energy efficiency.
The first step is to understand what the building’s energy performance is at present. Akin to the car analogy, you may buy a huge gas-guzzler or a tiny fuel-efficient run-around, but you know its fuel-efficiency upfront. Potential tenants and owners of buildings need to know the energy performance of a building so that they can shop around for one that they know will meet their energy efficiency needs.
The first EPCs aim to gather a snapshot view of the current energy performance. If a building gets an F rating there is a five-year EPC validity period for efficiency interventions to be installed and bring it to a D rating.
By knowing how much energy your building uses and its performance in comparison to other buildings, you are far better prepared to make the necessary improvements. It is vital to collect and understand the data because “what is not measured cannot be managed”.
EPCs rate buildings’ energy performance from A to G, with A being the most energy efficient and G the worst, when benchmarking against the figures in the SANS 10400-XA standard.
The energy consumption measurements are based on the data from utility bills or meters that are gathered in the year prior to the assessment period. The EPCs unit of measure is kWh (kilowatt hours) per square metre per annum. Once collected, calculated and put into the format for the EPC, the building owner contracts a SANAS registered accredited inspection body to conduct the audit of this information.
Once the audit is complete, the accredited body submits the data to SANEDI which inputs it into the Building Energy Performance Register. This information generates a unique number for the EPC which is then issued to the SANAS accredited inspection body who issues the EPC to the client so it can be displayed. A copy of it is sent to SANEDI to keep track of the data on the national register.
EPCs are valid for five years and SANEDI will send renewal reminders at three years. The final reminder is sent one year before the expiration of the certificate.
The regulations apply to non-residential buildings (specific occupancy classes) with a net floor area of at least
2 000m2 in the private sector, and 1 000m2 for buildings owned, operated or occupied by an organ of state. Schools, universities and colleges, places of indoor entertainment and sport, offices, places of public assembly, and indoor sports all have to comply.
The Role of SANAS in registering EPC contractors – the rubber stamp needed
SANAS is part of the technical infrastructure of the Department of Trade and Industry and Competition. All entities wishing to be inspection bodies and conduct EPCs have to register with SANAS to be accredited as an EPC Inspection Body.
Part of the SANAS accreditation process is establishing the EPC competency within the potential inspection body, and they will check that people doing EPCs have the relevant knowledge and skills required.
There will be lessons learnt while implementing SANS 1544 and these lessons will inform the next version of the standard. GBCSA and SANEDI will be part of the process to continue to improve on this standard and will contribute to its next draft. The new version should be completed within the next two years.
The role of the GBCSA
GBCSA CEO, Lisa Reynolds was the chair of the working group that wrote the standard and had significant input into the development of the EPCs. Reynolds explains that it is a process of making energy efficiency tangible, which is why these benchmarking exercises are so important.
The data collected for two of the GBCSA’s Green Star ratings for buildings can contribute to the information needed for the EPC requirements: The Energy and Water Performance tool for offices and for Existing Building Performance. Collection of this data is useful for the EPC and can help map future energy efficiency requirements.
It is important to remember that this is not a voluntary exercise. Penalties will be applied for non-compliance, the exact details of which are yet to be disclosed. The implementation of the EPC regulation and the subsequent retrofitting of buildings toward energy efficiency will lead to job creation. Furthermore, it will help make South Africa more energy efficient and reduce its carbon per capita which is one of the highest in the world.
Property owners and government entities have until 7 December 2022 to ensure that their buildings adhere to the regulations.
On 18 February 2021, the Admin B building at Stellenbosch University, which houses the vice chancellor and executive team, received the first-ever EPC for a building in South Africa.
Bluedust Engineering Solutions, Stellenbosch University’s energy management consultants, were instrumental in achieving their EPC.
The EPC was issued by Energy Management and Verification Services (EMVS), who is the first inspection body accredited by SANAS to assess and issue an EPC rating for eligible South African buildings.
Barry Bredenkamp, SANEDI’s general manager for energy efficiency and corporate communications, commented: “Stellenbosch University being awarded an A-rated EPC so soon after the regulations were gazetted, really is a phenomenal achievement and they should be applauded for this major step forward.”