HIPs heat up energy debate

National Energy Saving Week, which starts on October 24, is set to fuel discussion about how consumers can cope with oil and gas price increases.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that households can already slash bills by 250 a year by adopting energy saving measures such as efficient installation, but potential savings could soon explode as our energy supplies become ever more depleted.

The UK is due to become a net importer of gas next year, and of oil by the end of the decade. Indeed by 2020 it is likely to be importing around three quarters of its primary energy needs and, more worryingly still, we are within a generation of exhausting the oil and gas reserves of the world as a whole.

With the average household consuming more energy than even the average car, cost considerations will dictate that the energy efficiency of a property becomes a key consideration in the house buying process. So the government has ensured that sellers will soon have to provide potential purchasers with detailed information in this respect.

From January 2007, home owners wanting to sell their property will be legally required to compile a Home Information Pack, which will bring together key information about a propertys condition and ownership and will effectively transfer responsibility for producing this from the buyer to the seller.

Home Condition Reports, which will be an important component of HIPs, will provide impartial and reliable information on a propertys energy efficiency by using government approved Standard Assessment Procedures to shed light on issues such as levels of thermal insulation, types and efficiency of heating systems, including their controls, and ventilation of the property.

They will also contain benchmarks for comparison, will suggest cost effective measures to enhance energy efficiency and will estimate the improvement that will be achieved by their implementation.

Marcus Cox, managing director of HIP provider mysalepack.com, says: HIPs obviously address some of the primary inefficiencies of our current house buying process, but in my opinion the primary driving force behind their introduction has been the need to encourage households to become more energy efficient

The Government is legally obliged to meet stiff targets to reduce our gas emission under the Kyoto Protocol, and European legislation requires that member states ensure an energy performance certificate is made available to the prospective buyer or tenant when buildings are constructed, sold and let.

I believe that the energy efficiency rating within the Home Condition Report will increase dramatically in importance because we will be importing fuel from Siberia and North Africa and it will have to cross some tough terrain en route. This will result in prices escalating, and the energy efficiency of your home will have a direct bearing on its marketability.