In a bid to improve home energy ratings, UK housing minister Yvette Cooper has called for Energy Performance Certificates, or EPCs, to be linked to incentives such as green mortgages.

Ms Cooper said that EPCs could also be linked to schemes run by energy companies that give homebuyers cash upfront to make energy-saving alterations to their homes.

She also said that she would be meeting mortgage lenders and energy companies to discuss the development of these kinds of incentives.

EPCs will be compulsory as part of the UK government’s Home Information Packs (HIPs) from June 1, 2007. The EPCs will outline the costs of heating, hot water and lighting in homes and give practical advice for consumers on how to cut these costs and reduce emissions.

The government claims that, if just a fifth of homeowners made the basic changes set out in their EPC, they could save around GBP100 million a year on their energy bills and cut carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the roads.

Until now householders haven’t had energy efficiency facts about their houses upfront; but next June every homebuyer will know exactly how energy efficient their homes are – and how they can improve this, Ms Cooper commented. Why shouldn’t this information be used by mortgage lenders or energy companies?

Green mortgages are available outside the UK, and 16 councils in England have been running pilot schemes with energy providers under which council tax rebates are offered to consumers who make energy-saving alterations to their houses. Ms Cooper said that she believes EPCs offer much scope for such incentives.

WWF has been campaigning for some time for financial incentives such as green mortgages to be introduced, to drive consumer demand for energy efficiency in the home, added WFF director of campaigns, Paul King. EPCs will provide financial services providers with a way of differentiating their products, such as mortgages or insurance, for more energy-efficient homes for the first time.

Ms Cooper also announced that she has pledged GBP4 million of funding to support six area trials for the HIPs in Bath, Newcastle, Southampton, Northampton, Huddersfield and Cambridge in November 2006.