Energy suppliers are required by law to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and ensure that their customers’ homes are energy efficient. The extent of those duties came under the spotlight in a High Court case in which a manufacturer argued that existing loft insulation methods do not meet environmental protection targets.
The case concerned a product used to insulate loft hatch covers. Its manufacturer argued that only such a proprietary product could achieve the level of insulation required to comply with environmental rules and the Building Regulations 2010. The existing, ad hoc, method involved insulating loft covers with plastic pillows filled with the same insulating material as elsewhere in lofts.
The existing method was said by the manufacturer to leave gaps in insulation cover. It had, however, been approved by the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (GEMA), the body that bears responsibility for administering a government scheme whereby energy providers are required to invest heavily in the installation of energy efficient measures – including loft insulation – in clients’ homes.
The manufacturer argued that the existing method did not meet legal requirements that the entirety of a loft space must be covered by insulation, that loft covers in particular must be completely insulated so far as practicable and that all materials and products used must comply with relevant industry standards.
In dismissing the manufacturer’s case, however, the Court found that its arguments had no substance. The relevant regulations could not be read as prohibiting any gaps in loft insulation, however tiny, and the interpretation put upon by them by the manufacturer was in other respects divorced from reality.
The Court noted that, even had the manufacturer’s case been made good, it would have refused all but declaratory relief due to the unexplained and extensive delay in launching the challenge. The relief sought, if granted, would have required energy suppliers to carry out further work on a large number of lofts that had already been insulated.