At this point it seems like the Green Deal just can't catch a break. After a humiliating first year it seemed like things were picking up for the Government's flagship energy scheme, but it will now be investigated by Parliament's spending watchdog after it was revealed that a staggering £36 million was spent on the scheme in the last 12 months.
A report from the Independent highlighted some of the spending the scheme made on promotion in February, including:
- Over £300,000 on "consumer demand, marketing and communications". This included a £100,000 rebranding exercise.
- £227,000 to a single consultancy company on Green Deal monitoring and evaluation.
- £20,000's worth of fees to part-time staff helping to run the scheme. This is in addition to the plan's full-time civil servants.
The criticism of the scheme came following the publication of the latest uptake figures for March, released by the DECC last week. While the figures show that there is a rise in households seeking assessments and installing energy-saving measures, the increase perhaps isn't quite enough to have justified this level of spending. The report said that currently 2000 households had plans in progress by the end of March, a slight step up from February's 1754.
Meanwhile 188,234 green assessements were lodged, which is a big increase over the previous month's 25,138. The increase of 163,096 marks the highest number logged and a rise of 40%.
As for Green Deal Plans, 2,000 household were shown to have plans 'in progress'. Five hundred and thirty two were 'new' (quote accepted), 473 were marked as 'pending' (Plan signed) and 995 were 'live' (all measures installed). Of the measures installed, boilers accounted for 30%, followed by photovoltaics (25%), solid wall insulation (17%) and loft insulation (9%).
A spokesperson for the DECC commented saying that the Green Deal was always a "long-term" project that would deliver results "over a long time frame", but that didn't stop detractors from speaking out. House of Commons Public Accounts Committee chairman Margaret Hodge had this to say:
"It is pathetic when you consider that the Coalition promised to be the greenest government ever yet is spending millions of pounds on a scheme that is not even performing at the margins. Sadly, the Green Deal is looking like it is extremely poor value for money."
Is the Green Deal beyond salvagable at this stage?
After a pretty abysmal first year, it's no surprise that the Green Deal - the UK Government's flagship energy saving programme, is going to be going through some much needed changes. After all, you know its bad when even Energy Secretary Ed Davey - one of the men behind the scheme, calls it "clunky", "complex" and "disappointing".
Speaking at the Ecobuild convention that's taken place in London's Excel centre over the last few days, Mr Davey launched a consultation on the changes that will be made to Green Deal sister scheme ECO (Energy Companies Obligation), while at the same time reaffirming that the DECC were about to make some vital changes to the overall programme.
He said that the Government had been looking to "streamline" the Green Deal from very early on, and that the fact changes need to be made after only one year shouldn't be that surprising given "the scale of the ambition". He also added that further incentives for people to sign up would be unveiled in the coming weeks.
The latest figures from January did report that the scheme was beginning to make a comeback, with 1,277 plans in place by the end of the month - 746 of which were completed. However Mr Davey stressed that selling finance plans was not the main aim of the scheme:
"The fact that most people currently having a Green Deal assessment are not then going on to choose Green Deal finance plans shouldn’t actually worry us.
"How people pay for energy efficiency improvements is not after all the main issue. The aim of the Green Deal isn’t to sell credit plans, but to make our homes warmer, cheaper and greener."
It's great to see that the DECC are pushing these Green Deal changes, but is there really that much new info since the last time Ed Davey announced what they would be doing. Hopefully this will be a move that brings the Green Deal into the spotlight, rather than empty promises made during a sudden rise that may not amount to anything. Only time will tell...
Back in January official Government figures showed that the Green Deal wasn't doing too well - in fact in it's first year it had barely managed to achieve a fraction of its expected targets. And although the Government admitted things weren't working out quite the way they had anticipated, Climate Change minister Greg Barker still considered it an encouraging start and was confident things were going to pick up in 2014. Could he have been right?
Electrical body NICEIC are reporting that now more than 1000 companies have signed up for Green Deal installer status with them, alongside further news that consumer interest has picked up in recent months. Since the end of December, an impressive 129,842 Green Deal assessments are said to have been lodged. With only 1,612 houses recorded to have made plans overall (with a further 626 houses having plans in place), this figure alone has the potential to upset last years numbers.
NICEIC head of operations Paul Collins said, "The government is committed to ensuring that all work undertaken via Green Deal is carried out by registered firms and with interest in the initiative now ramping up we are seeing more and more firms look to get involved. We have witnessed a large number of skilled professionals such as electricians, plumbers, heating and gas engineers come to NICEIC for certification as it is a name associated with quality and assurance."
So maybe the Government's confidence in the Green Deal wasn't unfounded? That being said it still has a long way to go yet - after all if none of these put plans in place then the Green Deal is back at square one. For those still not in the know about this Government programme, the Green Deal aims to fund energy-saving upgrades to homes without any upfront costs for installation. Instead, the costs are added to your energy bills and staggered over time.
This may sound offputting, but the rule of the Green Deal is that the repayments MUST be less than the money you're saving on your energy bills - so you'll be paying less regardless of the installments. Interested customers must first have a propety assesment performed by a special Green Deal advisor, who will look at your home's current energy performance and suggest what measures are suitable for you. From there you can begin searching for quotes from Green Deal providers who will be able to tell you the overall cost of the work.
More information on the Green Deal can be found on the DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change)'s website, but expect more news in the future as it seems there's life in the programme yet!
After many months of the Green Deal with very little success, the Department of Energy & Climate Change have announced that they will begin introducing new measures at the beginning of 2014 to make it more straightforward and less time consuming for both tradespeople and consumers alike.
In the eight months the Government's flagship energy policy has been running, a mere 12 homes have had measures put in place - although it is reported several thousand are waiting for applications to be processed after having home assessments carried out.
The DECC plans to open up access to energy performance certificate (EPC) data so companies can then have better focus on how they market the scheme. It also plans to add more home improvement measures to the list that is covered by the Deal, while allowing more flexibility over the exact specifications companies must install to. A new, improved website will also be set up to increase consumer interest.
Finally there are also plans to work with the Green Deal Finance Company to make it possible for customers to go from a quote to a plan in a single day, removing the need for different people to make separate visits to homes as an application is processed.
The DECC will roll out some of these changes in January, however some require Paraliamentary approval to ammend the legislation and so will be coming in later months.
A committee of MPs have banded together to call for changes to be made to the Green Deal so that it is made more finanically attractive to both homeowners and landlords.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment has compiled a 36-page report, entitled "Re-energising the green agenda", suggesting that the government's flagship green policy needs to be clearer in the public eye as many people are still unaware of its existence. The report commends the setting up of the Green Deal, but believes it is time for it to be reworked to make it work for social housing and to make the financial incentives it offers more permanent. It also advocates greater clarity from the government, saying:
"Despite setting out ambitious targets, the government has been sending mixed messages about its commitment to the green agenda. This has been particularly apparent over the delay to the revisions to Part L of the Building Regulations covering energy efficiency, and the slow progress on establishing how zero carbon will be met for domestic buildings in 2016. In recent years unexpected changes to the feed-in-tariffs also caused consternation and undermined confidence in the construction sector."
They have set out seven recommendations to the government in terms of changes, which include making retrofit more finanicially attractive by looking at ways in which it can reduce the interest rate on the Green Deal, bolstering the Green Construction board to make it a more transparent organisation that provide a clear construction industry focal point, and setting up an Existing Homes Hub (along the lines of the Zero Carbon Homes Hub), to engage with the industry on sustainability issues and provide a neutral space for the industry and DECC to work together.
Group chairman Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, said: “The world faces significant environmental challenges, and to help combat them our government needs to ensure Britain plays its part in reducing CO2 emissions; make our homes more energy efficient; reduce the costs of heating our homes; help combat fuel poverty and meet our required energy needs.
“We hope this report sends a clear message to government to reaffirm and re-energise its commitment to the delivery of the sustainable agenda in construction and the built environment and in doing so, provide clarity and certainty to help industry play its part in turning policies into success stories. The potential to create jobs at home and export our new skills and expertise in this field abroad is a prize in itself.”
The full report can be read here at www.cic.org.uk
Via The Construction Index