Government Sets Impossible Green Homes Target

The government’s green homes' dream to make millions of properties more energy efficient will fall short because one in six homes can’t be improved to reach a high enough rating. 

Research looked at the energy efficiency ratings of 15 million homes in England and Wales and found that 1.7 million with an Energy Performance Certificate score of D or lower would never reach a C rating. 

A low EPC rating means householders pay higher heating bills, while landlords could face a ban on letting homes with poor energy efficiency. The research by the property portal Rightmove found that 59% of the 24 million homes in England and Wales are rated D or lower. This number could reduce to 11% if owners made energy efficiency improvements. 

Rightmove reckons 11 million homes do not have an EPC because they have not been sold or rented out since the scheme started. The government wants all homes to reach a C rating by 2035 to help meet the net zero carbon target for the country. The target for a C rating is 2030 for private rented homes.

What is an Energy Performance Certificate?

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are needed at various property life stages. Homeowners must have an EPC for potential buyers or tenants to view when a home is built, sold or let out. The EPC lists information about a property’s energy use, related cost, and money-saving improvements. The report is drafted by a specialist assessor. Getting an EPC A database of EPCs is held online with open access.

If you want to look up your EPC or that of another property, you can search by address or certificate number. The EPC rates a home’s energy efficiency on a scale of A to G. An A rating is the highest. 

The cost of improvements recommended by an EPC assessor range from insulating a hot water tank for £23, installing low-energy lighting (£38), draughtproofing single glazed windows (£100) to adding loft insulation (£225) and upgrading heating controls (£400).

Rightmove’s Director of Property Data Tim Bannister said “It’s encouraging to see that there are some energy efficiency improvements that can cost less than £100, so it’s definitely worth checking your EPC if your home has one to see if there are small changes you could make to try and improve your rating. The bigger challenge is for those homes with much lower ratings that will cost a substantial amount of money to improve. 

“There are a number of homeowners who don’t feel an urgent need to make changes now unless it makes a big difference to the cost of their household bills or if it’s going to make their home more attractive to a potential buyer if they’re planning to sell.

It’s early days with some lenders starting to introduce green mortgages as incentives. Still, homeowners need to be better informed that how green homes will become increasingly important as we aim to move towards a net zero society. They need more help to understand why making improvements are so crucial for the long term.”

Homes that can’t upgrade

Homes that run off fuels other than gas are likely to stay at EPC grade D or lower (although we have a flat with modern electric heaters, and it's a band C). Industry monitor Ofgem reckons at least a million homes cannot connect to gas and rely on oil or liquid gas to run heating, cooking and hot water. 

Replacing oil boilers with a low-carbon alternative can cost up to £30,000, says Liquid Gas UK. Just 7% of rural off-grid homeowners can afford a heat pump system which costs between £11,000 and £18,000.

“While ambitious EPC targets and proposals are well intended, if the methodology is left unaddressed, the effect of this on properties off the gas grid is profound,” said George Webb, chief executive of Liquid Gas UK. 

“Rural homeowners will be pushed into spending thousands extra on energy efficiency improvements than they need to or can afford, as well as likely damage to the rural housing market. 

“The high upfront costs also encourage rural homes to stick with high carbon fuels such as oil, rather than move to lower carbon solutions.”

The top 10 places with the highest number of homes EPC rated D or below

Local authority Homes with EPC rating D or belowHomes unable to meet EPC rating C
Castle Point77.2%13.0%
Staffordshire Moorlands73.8%11.6%


The top 10 places with the lowest number of homes EPC rated D or below

Local authority Homes with EPC rating D or belowHomes unable to meet EPC rating C
Tower Hamlets27.4%8.3%
Milton Keynes42.8%5.7%


The top 10 places with the lowest number of homes are likely to rate D or below after EPC improvements

Local authority Homes with EPC rating D or belowHomes unable to meet EPC rating C
Milton Keynes42.8%5.7%
Telford and Wrekin46.9%5.8%


Landlords and Green Homes rules

Private rented homes in England or Wales must have a valid EPC showing an energy efficiency rating of E or higher otherwise; the house cannot be let to a new or existing tenant.

View Related Handbook Page

Energy Efficiency Improvements

A tenant is allowed to reasonably ask for a relevant energy efficiency improvement. From 1 April 2018, all rented property let on assured shorthold tenancies, regulated tenancies under the Rent Act 1977 and four types of agricultural tenancy, which is to have a new tenancy must have an EPC rating of at least "E".

Energy Performance Certificates (EPC)

Since 1 October 2008, landlords have been required to make an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) available to prospective tenants when a property is being advertised for sale or let. The purpose of the EPC is to show prospective tenants the energy performance of the dwelling they are considering renting.