Of all the stories we’re going to read about in the trade press over the coming weeks and months, it is this one which, if it comes to fruition, will have an enormous impact on every single stage of the chain in our industry. On page 96 of this month’s Glass Times there was an article from Phil Brown, European Technical Advisory Manager for Pilkington. In his piece, he writes about the European Commissions plans to introduce a Europe-wide, single energy ratings scheme. It made for interesting, and serious reading. I’m going to show you the most important snippets of the article, then give you my views. Spoiler, they’re not positive!

WERs out, Europe in

Believe it or not, WERs have been around for a decade, and have been a measure of compliance for most of that time. But Europe being Europe, they like to meddle in our affairs. Last time round it was CE marking, now they have our WERs scheme on their radar.

Phil writes:

This potential overhaul of the current UK energy-performance labelling system has been driven by the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives – legislation which sets out standardised practises across the EU for the design and labelling requirements of energy-using products

Right now this isn’t set in stone. But this is the EU, and when they have an idea they want to implement, they generally do. He goes on…

It is believed that this will help to drive performance standards, further boost the uptake of energy rated products and help cut carbon emissions.The UK system is often cited as the best practice by the Commission and a driver for the pan-European scheme.

Firstly, it’s been law for ages in the UK that window companies have to installed energy rated product to at least a C rating. So I can’t see how this is going to boost UK uptake seen as though it’s already LAW here. Secondly, if our system is seen as so good by Europe, why meddle in our own affairs? Leave ours alone, copy it if they have to and implement it inside the rest of Europe, there’s no need to disturb us!

Phil continues…

The new system is currently being formulated by the European Commission, which has commissioned a preparatory study – the full results of which are expected to be revealed at a consultation forum in May, which will be attended by representatives of EU Member States.

So I guess we’ll have to wait until May to find out for sure what the plans are. But judging by the overall tone of Phil’s article, it sounds like the EC are already half way to getting this done anyway. Now here’s the bit that is really going to stick in the craw…

Windows currently ranked A in the UK scheme, when recalculated, may not achieve the same ranking in an EU system. This will affect current specifications for replacement windows and also have a major impact on future product-development programmes.

Imagine the conversations with your customers. “Sorry Mr and Mrs Smith, those A rated windows you’ve just bought and about to have installed are no longer A rated, thanks to the European Commission.” How to confuse the customer and reduce company credibility in one fell swoop!

So, that’s the crux of it. Here’s the stuff that’s going to matter.

Implications for us

I’ll stop quoting and start paraphrasing now otherwise this post is going to be epically long.

It’s going to cost us. All existing energy rated products would need to be recalculated. And that’s not going to be free. Someone is going to want a fee for that. So if you’re a fabricator and have had say, 20 different products tested for their energy ratings, you’re going to have to pay for those 20 products to be re-tested according to the new scheme.

That’s just the start. Think about all the marketing, education needed to implement this new scheme. The whole chain is going to need to start from scratch. Phil asks the question in his article if there might be any financial aid to help cover these new costs. I doubt it very much. Europe is more skint than we are. No money coming our way for this I’ll tell you that much!

At the moment, a C rated window is the absolute minimum that any window company can installed. However, if as Phil says that an A rated window could be downgraded in the new calculations, then there is the distinct possibility that a C rated window could be rated lower in the new scheme, therefore making it illegal according to current UK building regulations. There should be a transition period to cover companies who need to get back up to legal speed, but this is still going to be a major inconvenience.

Phil makes a good point towards the end of his piece that by introducing a Europe-wide scheme, it will open the door to scheme providers from Europe to be competition to UK providers. I can assure you that not a single person in those UK companies will be happy about that.

My thoughts

As many will have read throughout the years, I’m not the biggest fan of WERs. Give me a U-Value all day long. However, this sort of plan will actually send us backwards, rather than forwards.

At least with the WERs label homeowners had something they could recognise. Who knows what label is going to be invented and what that will look like. Homeowners probably won’t recognise it, or even care about it. With the WERs label we had something tangible to show to people.

WERs was flawed from the start. The energy A band was too vague. As companies upped their game and A+ ratings soared beyond A+10, A+20, A+30 and so on, the BFRC could only put add a new A+ band to try and differentiate between the differing A rated windows. But how far could you go with that? We would have ended up with A+++++ at some point, which will have wiped out all credibility altogether.

But this isn’t the answer. A blanket policy covering all of Europe isn’t going to solve this problem. This is just more EU meddling in our own affairs that really are not necessary. It’s going to cost us all. When? Probably a couple of years down the line. These things always take a few years to actually happen.

Time to get U-Values back in focus!

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