Subjectivity and Climate Change

In her 2016 PhD thesis, Gillian Westcott examined the part played by subjective attitudes to climate change in determining the policy and actions of local authorities in South West England.

The research used interviews with officers and members of seven local authorities in the area, conducted during the years 2010 to 2013. While much has changed since then, the views expressed could well be relevant to today’s community energy workers and others who engage with local authorities on climate change issues. Read more here.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)

An Energy Performance Certificate is required for properties when constructed, sold or let. The Energy Performance Certificate provides details on the energy performance of the property and what you can do to improve it. This estimates primary energy consumption and associated emissions for only certain elements of a property, so does not represent all emissions. Notably it does not include emissions from domestic sources such as cooking, white goods and entertainment. Primary energy sources can be: electricity from the grid, mains gas or LPG; heating oil; coal; and biomass.  On-site renewable generation estimates are used to offset these.

When an EPC is issued it lasts for 10 years. EPCs are issued by Domestic Energy Assessors.

An EPC includes:

  • A rating A to G for current and potential energy efficiency
  • Estimates of:
    • Current and potential CO2 emissions
    • Energy consumption
    • Environment impact
  • Cost estimates for:
    • Space heating
    • Hot water heating
    • Lighting

What do EPCs say about housing in Teignbridge?

EPCs have included values for CO2 emissions since October 2008. EPCs for an area can be downloaded from 1 This shows that in Teignbridge EPCs have been issued for over 37,000 of approximately 54000 dwellings. Currently average annual emissions per dwelling are 4.23 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The distribution of energy ratings current and potential is shown in the following chart:

Currently 23,137 dwellings (62.1%) are rated D or worse. These dwellings emit 127 kt of CO2, whereas the better rated dwellings emit just 31 kt of CO2.

Just 58 dwellings in Teignbridge currently have an energy rating of A, and only 27 of these dwellings have zero or negative carbon emissions. Most of the 27 are one off custom builds, but 10 are new estate houses built by Redrow in Kingsteignton. Most new build houses have a B or C rating, but this shows that zero carbon is possible for new build estate houses, so why aren’t they all zero carbon?

How might we improve

For many dwellings EPCs contain recommendations for improvements and estimates of potential CO2 emissions and energy consumption. If all the suggested improvements were carried out then:

  • Emissions per dwelling would drop from 4.23 tonnes to 2.37 tonnes, a reduction of nearly 44%.
  • Only 5,949 dwellings (15.97%) would be rated D or worse, against 23,137 (62.1%) currently. Despite the great reduction in numbers, those households rated D or worse would still account for 36.5% of CO2 emissions.
  • Dwellings that are rated A,B or C would emit 1.79 tonnes each or 56 kt in total, whereas those rated D and below would emit 5.42 tonnes each or 32 kt in total.

Many of the measures recommended in EPCs are quite expensive, so it is reasonable to assume that many have not been implemented.

If more radical measures were applied to the difficult cases to ensure these were at least as good as those rated C and above, then total domestic emissions could reduce to 67 kt, an overall improvement of about 68%.

In addition to improving the existing stock, we need new buildings to be zero carbon or negative as soon as possible. Ideally negative, to mitigate emissions from existing dwellings that are difficult to treat.

What are the EPC recommendations

The top EPC assessor recommendations are:

  • Install Solar PV 2.5 kWp (29,642)
  • Install Solar hot water heating (26,591)
  • Install Low energy light bulbs (24,075)
  • Replace boiler with new condensing boiler (11,994)

The number of certificates with each recommendation is shown in brackets.

These are followed by various insulation recommendations.

As we need hot water all year round, solar water heating will reduce energy imports in the summer.

Low energy lighting is probably the simplest measure to apply, LED lights are now available in a wide variety of fittings and in many cases all that is needed is to directly replace an existing bulb with an LED one.

It is optimistic to assume that fitting half of all dwellings with Solar PV would reduce emissions significantly as solar panels are only really effective in the summer during daytime, when energy is not required for heating or lighting. Solar panels are only likely to reduce emissions in the summer if the electricity generated is not exported. A storage battery can ensure that you have electricity at night, but there is no prospect of storing energy in the summer for use in winter. Now that time of use based tariffs are appearing following smart meter roll out, a battery could also be used to take advantage of low off peak rates, when hopefully more of the energy mix comes from renewables.

Electric heating has the potential of being zero carbon, whilst gas does not, so it is disappointing that heat pumps do not feature as a possible solution in the recommendations, but that gas boilers do. This probably reflects that:

  • Heat pumps are more expensive than gas boilers
  • Heat pumps work best with lower flow temperatures, so need larger emitting surfaces, ideally underfloor heating.

How well do EPC emissions estimates match reality

According to EPCs the total emissions for Teignbridge are 157.7 kilo-tonnes (kt).

An estimate is made for each year by BEIS for local authority emissions by fuel and sector, this can be found here Domestic emissions for Teignbridge for 2017 from this source are 183.1 kt. This estimate is based on actual consumption figures, so is more accurate.

EPCs only represent 37,247 dwellings, whereas there are about 54,000 dwellings in Teignbridge. EPC derived emissions are increased by a factor of 1.45 (54000/37247) to 228.7 to take this into account, so adding up EPC derived emissions overestimates by about 25%. This is probably down to a number of factors:

  • Space heating calculations used in EPCs assume a standardised temperature of 21C during heating periods in the living area. It is likely that most houses are heated to lower temperatures.
  • When assessing existing buildings assessors have to make assumptions about construction, as the assessment must be non-destructive.
  • Calculations derive CO2 emissions from calculated energy consumption using standard conversion factors for each fuel type. Over time these factors have changed, most noticeably the electricity factor to reflect increased use of renewables. This means that EPCs will overestimate emissions from some fuel types.

A more accurate estimate of domestic emissions for small areas could be calculated from actual consumption. Domestic gas consumption is available by postcode, and electricity is available at census LSOA (Lower Super Output Area) level. This article and associated data will be updated once this analysis has been done.

EPC data is a useful starting point for Parish and Town councils who have declared a Climate Emergency.  It will help to set carbon targets and implement initiatives that help reduce emissions.  An alternative approach would be to calculate emissions from BEIS data on a pro-rata basis, or use the results of our consumption based analysis once it is available.  Ultimately the most accurate and up-to-date method is for individual property owners/occupiers to do this assessment themselves, either by commissioning a new EPC, or by simply reading their energy bills or meters.  Please contact ACT’s Built Environment group for information on how to do this.

Where are domestic emissions in the district

The EPC data includes a postcode for each property, so EPCs can be analysed against a number of geographies including:

  • Parish boundaries
  • Census 2011 output areas
  • Teignbridge wards
  • Teignbridge district

Mapping Emissions

To finish this article here are maps. If you click the mouse over an area on the map, you will be shown some statistics about the area. Both the maps below are synchronised so that they always show the same place at the same scale.

Here are some links to map only pages:


  1. If you follow the link to the opendatacommunities site you may get a security warning, this can safely be ignored.

TDC formally accept our support proposal

ACT has met Jackie Hook, TDC climate emergency portfolio holder and David Eaton, climate emergency lead officer, on several occasions, to discuss a joint approach for delivering on the TDC declaration. We have also gathered over 150 proposals for possible action from members of the community, which has been passed to the council.

The coordination group is confident that ACT can help both TDC and everyone in Teignbridge achieve the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2025. This proposal describes ACT’s vision, mission and objectives, and proposes a partnership with the council. Finally, it provides an provisional timeline for getting the relationship established.

TDC formally accepted our role in supporting them in at their full council meeting on 24th Sept 2019.

Our full proposal can be read here.

Teignbridge declares a climate emergency

April 2019

The following Notice of Motion was submitted by Councillor J Hook and supported by Councillors Connett, Dewhirst, Hayes, G Hook, Nutley, Parker and Wrigley.


Council Notes:

  1. Humans have already caused irreversible climate change, the impacts of which are being felt around the world.  Global temperatures have already increased by 1 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels. 
  2. In order to reduce the chance of runaway Global Warming and limit the effects of Climate Breakdown, it is imperative that we as a species reduce our CO2eq (carbon equivalent) emissions from their current 6.5 tonnes per person per year to less than 2 tonnes as soon as possible.
  3. Individuals cannot be expected to make this reduction on their own. Society needs to change its laws, taxation, infrastructure, etc., to make low carbon living easier and the new norm;
  4. Carbon emissions result from both production and consumption;
  5. Our current plans and actions are not enough.  The world is on track to overshoot the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius limit before 2050.
  6. The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, published in October 2018, describes the enormous harm that a 2 degrees Celsius rise is likely to cause compared to a 1.5 degrees Celsius, and told us that limiting Global Warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius may still be possible with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities.
  7. Local Councils around the world are responding by declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and committing resources to address this emergency.

Council believes that:

  1. All governments (national, regional and local) have a duty to limit the negative impacts of Climate Breakdown, and local governments that recognize this should not wait for their national governments to change their policies.  It is important for Teignbridge Council and other Councils to commit to carbon neutrality as quickly as possible.
  2. Towns, Cities and Local Authorities at all tiers are uniquely placed to lead the world in reducing carbon emissions; they are well placed to help decarbonize villages and more remote areas as they have closer links with their residents.
  3. Bold climate action can deliver economic benefits in terms of new jobs, economic savings and market opportunities, as well as improved personal, social and environmental well-being for people, locally and worldwide.


Teignbridge District Council will,

  1. Declare a ‘climate emergency’
  2. Pledge to do what is within our powers, to make Teignbridge District carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account both production and consumption emissions.
  3. Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources necessary for Teignbridge District to achieve the target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, and to implement best practice methods to limit global warming to 1.5C.
  4. Report to Full Council within six months with an Action Plan, outlining how the Council will address this emergency. The Action Plan will detail the leadership role Teignbridge District will take in promoting community, public, business and other Council partnerships to achieve this Carbon Neutral 2030 Commitment throughout the District. The Action Plan will also outline adequate staff time and resources to undertake the actions to achieve the target.
  5. To investigate all possible sources of external funding and match funding to support this commitment