DMRE considering extending the deadline for building energy performance certificates

Owners of non-residential buildings may be given some breathing space to comply with a National Energy Act provision that requires them to have energy performance certificates (EPC) for their buildings by 7 December 2022 or face a significant fine or imprisonment.

SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa) CEO Neil Gopal and the South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi), which administers the national building energy performance register, have both indicated that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) is considering extending the 7 December 2022 deadline.

The DMRE has not yet responded to a Moneyweb request for confirmation and comment on the possible extension of the deadline.

In terms of the National Energy Act, owners of buildings can face a fine of up to R5 million or imprisonment for a period of up to five years, or both, for failing to obtain EPCs for their buildings.

Sanedi spokesperson Thembalethu Khumalo confirmed only 259 buildings in South Africa currently have EPCs and an estimated 150 000 to 250 000 buildings may require them.

Buildings that are subject to the EPC process are:

  • Public sector buildings greater than 1 000m2.
  • Private sector buildings greater than 2 000m2.
  • Buildings that have been in operation with a particular use for a minimum of two years.
  • Buildings with no major renovations carried out for the past two years of operation.

Occupancy classes that are subject to the EPC process are entertainment and public assembly; theatrical and indoor sport, places of instruction; and offices.

A shopping mall or centre is not required to acquire an EPC under the current regulations.

‘Mathematically impossible’

Gopal said Sapoa has met the DMRE and Sanedi a number of times this year and raised a number of concerns.

However, Gopal said Sapoa is encouraged to hear an extension is already being considered by the DMRE, particularly as it is mathematically impossible for South Africa to meet this deadline.

“It is not possible for six accredited service providers simply to certify 500 000 buildings in a few months,” he said.

Khumalo confirmed there are already discussions between Sanedi and the DMRE on an extension of the deadline, bearing in mind there are just over nine weeks left before buildings must have EPCs.

Gopal said concerns Sapoa raised with the DMRE and Sanedi included:

  • The limited number of approved SANAS (SA National Accreditation System) accredited inspection bodies versus the number of buildings that are required to be accredited.
  •  The online EPC portal is still not operational and the standardised template is yet to be launched or published.
  • The difference between the South African property industry standard (Sapoa’s method of measurement) and the SANS 1544 definition of net floor area has yet to be resolved and the SANS 1544 steering committee is still to be established.
  •  The impact of occupancy scaling and operational control issues on EPC ratings has not been resolved.
  • The baseline selection and the impact of Covid-19 on the energy consumption requires further clarity.

Gopal said Sapoa and its members are not opposed to the regulations and would prefer to comply with them but, as indicated, various difficulties are being experienced in attempting to comply.

He said the longer this matter is delayed, the more difficult it will be for the South African property industry to comply with the regulations.

“This is extremely problematic, given the fact that the delays experienced are not due to the conduct of Sapoa and its members but rather due to regulatory issues.

“Sapoa simply cannot be faced by a situation where its members face criminal conviction, resulting in jail time and/or substantial fines, in circumstances where the appropriate regulatory authorities have dragged their heels and have not timeously put the appropriate facilities in place to ensure that energy performance certificates (EPCs) can be issued timeously and cost effectively,” he said.

Gopal highlighted that the regulation related to EPCs also applies to government buildings containing the respective occupancy classes and having a total net floor area exceeding 1 000m2.

“We place on record that, should any Sapoa member be prosecuted after 8 December 2022 due to it not having obtained an EPC, we trust that similar enforcement steps are taken against any non-compliant government department.

“We are of the view that it is simply unconscionable for private entities to be targeted while government departments may get away with non-compliance scott free,” he said.

Khumalo said Sanedi has sufficient accreditation capacity to meet the current trends of building owners or accounting officers certifying their buildings, but admitted this capacity will be “stretched to the limit” to meet the December 2022 deadline.

Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) chair Brian Unsted said the deadline is “probably a little unrealistic” given that the [list of] people who were able to accredit buildings was finalised so late and there were only a handful of companies that could provide the accreditations.

Unsted believes the EPC accreditation process will as a result not be “anywhere near complete” in the broader industry by the deadline.

Mandatory disclosure

He said the DMRE should adopt a more lenient approach to compliance with these regulations

Unsted has not yet responded to a number of other questions on this issue. This article will be updated once a response is received.

A Sanedi compliance guideline on EPCs said South Africa has been moving towards energy efficiency for the past 15 years with the National Energy Efficiency Strategy (NEES) and various regulations.

It said that to align the South African built environment with international best practice and increased targets for the reduction of CO2 emissions, the government has legislated the mandatory disclosure of energy performance of existing buildings through energy performance certification.

“In South Africa, the requirement of having an EPC will play a key role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions (also known as decarbonisation) in the country’s building sector, which is a key requirement to improve energy efficiency,” it said.

Sanedi said buildings alone account for 15% of South Africa’s greenhouse gases.

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