Green Deal: Where’s the incentive?
So, the party conference season is over. But what was really said about the Green Deal and ECO and where, oh where, are the incentives and where is the advertising?
Whilst the easy headlines for journos and well-rehearsed soundbites of the politicos are put away for another year, the conference season did spark at least some debate over the Green Deal and ECO. Perhaps most interesting was the Labour party conference where shadow Energy and Climate Change minister Luciana Berger called for a reform of the Green Deal to try to boost the poor uptake. Citing all the reasons we’ve heard many times before, (high interest rates, hidden charges etc, etc.) as well as the fact that out of the 45 Green Deal measures permitted, pretty much all the activity to date has been boiler upgrades. So far, so bad then.
As for ECO, Labour proposes to replace it with a far more efficient, streamlined, less bureaucratic scheme after ECO comes to an end in 2015. Everyone in the insulation industry would just hope and pray that any ‘smooth transition’ between one scheme and another is not as turbulent and eye-wateringly painful as that between CERT/CESP and ECO. The other point is that streamlined and efficient can mean many things – what is clear is that the guarantees, training and quality standards cannot be thrown out in the name of reducing bureaucracy. It’s simply too important to both protect consumers and to ensure that measures perform as they are designed for the lifetime of the building.
So, what is needed to boost the flagging Green Deal I hear you cry? One answer is that it needs Treasury backing rather than being a cost-neutral, hands-off, mustn’t get-involved project funded solely out of private coffers. It is also vital if incentives called for by organisations such as ACE come to fruition. You know the sort of thing, preferential Stamp Duty, Council Tax reductions, etc. In one way or another, these things need to be paid for. If you believe the reports, energy companies may be forced to freeze prices for consumers, so any funding would come from…squeezing company profits and reducing shareholders’ dividends? Alternatively, there’s central government…and they’re skint.
You see only by giving the energy saving measure a long-term value will there be any acceptance by the Great British Public of a scheme such as Green Deal. An estate agent friend of mine (yes, some of them do have friends) put this point into perspective. He said, in essence, that any Green Deal loan on a property would be taken off the value of that property when the time came to sell it – in other words devaluing the property. Energy Performance Certificates are a step in the right direction to at least have a tool by which one property can be measured against another, but it is the monetary benefit of that jump from a D to a C or an F to an E that will make the difference. So there’s a conundrum – what will make energy saving measures a benefit and have a value in the long-term? Higher energy prices?
Building Regulations seem to have been ruled out as a way of incentivising the Green Deal. Consequential Improvements were ruled out by communities’ secretary Eric Pickles and popped into the ‘too difficult’ pile. Pity really as this could have helped, hand-in-hand with some of the other measures described here.
Finally, there’s promotion and advertising. Some voices in the industry have argued that Green Deal take up is low because the government hasn’t promoted the scheme effectively. Well, yes and no. There is little point promoting a scheme where there are some changes needed to make it more attractive. However it is also true that the government has been appallingly lax, relying on installers, energy companies or your friendly local DIY chain to spread the word and pay for it. The Treasury will need to dig deep to fund a campaign worthy of some of those slightly scary 1970’s public information films.
Perhaps what’s really scary though is doing nothing at all.
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