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...

Via Building.co.uk

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!

The Green Deal has just had its first birthday, and unfortunately it hasn't been such a great year for the UK Government's flagship energy efficiency programme. 

Official figures have revealed that only 626 houses have live Green Deal plans in place, which is nowhere near the 10,000 figures minsters were expecting to be in place. As of December, only a total of 1,612 houses had made plans overall.

While assessments had never really been on the rise, they notably declined by 21% during December, which the government attributed to the Christmas holidays. However several leading green energy groups have spoken out against the Green Deal's poor statistics, stressing that the Government needs to try a lot hard in order for it to succeed.

The Federation of Master Builders has given the first year of the Green Deal a "report card" rating of two out of five, commenting that is has "not achieved the desired results in its first full year, with the majority of SME installers and home owners failing to engage". Chief Executive Brian Berry called the financial package "unattractive to most consumers". He also went on to say how the programme simply doesn't stack up against other high-street money saving alternatives such as loans and credit cards available at more competitive rates. His suggestions to improve the Green Deal were:

"The single most effective measure to kick-start demand would be to reduce the rate of VAT from 20% to 5% on all domestic repair and maintenance work, including energy-efficiency improvements. This would be a real incentive to home owners across the board to think about getting a professional tradesperson in to quote on a variety of repair and maintenance projects."

Meanwhile the UK Green Building Council also had things to say about the figures, calling it a "a wake-up call to the Government" that it is not delivering. Chief Excutive Paul King suggested that the Government must "recognise energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority and be prepared to delve into its purse to make its flagship policy more appealing through stronger incentives and more attractive finance options"

But despite its failings, the Government have announced that they plan to stick by the Green Deal, and believe that although its hard a slow start (to put it lightly) 2014 will definitely be the year it takes off. Climate Change minister Greg Barker "acknowledged" that things hadn't developed the way the government had anticipated at a conference yesterday, he still though its first year had been an "encouraging start".

He also commented that the supply chain was now in place, with more than 125 Green Deal providers at the ready along with 2900 individual advisers and 2300 organistations officially approved to carry out installations. Procedures are also set to be simplified by the newly established Green Deal Working Group, with further alterations and improvements to be announced over the coming weeks.

So will 2014 fare better for the Green Deal? It's too early to say, but if these numbers are anything to go by then it doesn't look like it can do much worse.

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

Following Ed Miliband's promises to freeze energy bills for 20 months, limit the power yielded by the "big six" energy providers and replace energy regulator Ofgem, the Labour Party has also vowed to do something about the Green Deal at their annual party conference in Brighton earlier this week.

In a policy review published on the 24th September, the party promised to address the shortcomings of the Green Deal and create an alternative that would encourage people to sign up and make the changes to their homes. The review read: "The Green Deal is failing to deliver. Since its launch, only 384 deals have been signed up to and just twelve have gone live. This is woefully inadequate so we will overhaul the Green Deal and replace it with a new energy save scheme."

The Labour Party has also called the coalition government's flagship energy scheme "woefully inadequate" and is failing to provide any sort of long-term solution to reducing the country's carbon footprint. Energy secretary Caroline Flint said: "It was meant to be the biggest home improvement programme since World War Two and ministers said they would be having sleepless nights if 10,000 people had not signed up by Christmas 2013. They won’t be getting much shut eye."

Despite constant reports of growing interest in the Green Deal and the government's insistence that those who have had Green Deal assessments were happy and recommended them to friends and family, there have only been a total of 12 homes with completed projects since the scheme's launch earlier this year.

Of course, these changes they propose will only potentially happen should the Labour Party gain power in the next general election in 2015. With that still quite a way off, it'll be interesting to hear what exactly they propose as an alternative in the meantime.

Via uSwitch

Temperatures could soar to dangerously high levels in some homes insulated under the government's flagship Green Deal scheme, experts have warned. Energy-saving measures designed to save on winter fuel bills and protect the environment could pose a risk to health during summer heatwaves, they add. Homes in densely populated urban areas such as London are most at risk. The government says it is aware of the problem and is taking steps to prevent overheating in Green Deal properties.

Heat can build up during the day and has nowhere to escape at night leading to poor air quality and a greater risk of heat stress for the occupants which, in extreme cases, can kill. It is vital that homes in the UK are better insulated to help meet carbon emission targets and save on winter fuel bills. But the risk of overheating had been overlooked in the "big rush to insulate and make homes airtight", particularly as more extreme weather events, including heatwaves, are being predicted for the UK by meteorologists.

"Overheating is like the little boy at the back of the class waving his hand. It is forgotten about because the other challenges are so big," he told the BBC News website. Very effective measures are being taken to protect against winter temperatures but by doing that they increase the risk of overheating during summer.

Research by Leicester De Montfort University, suggests top floor flats in 1960s tower blocks, and modern detached houses were most at risk, particularly if they were south facing. Heat was likely to have the biggest impact on elderly or infirm people who remained at home all day, the research suggests. The elderly are going to suffer. Suffering means they are going to die from overheating.

Under the Green Deal, householders take out loans to finance improvements such as double-glazing, loft insulation or more efficient boilers. The idea is that the energy savings they make should more than compensate for the repayments. In total it said there had been 38,259 Green Deal assessments, where customers are given initial advice about what energy improvements they might be eligible for. Of those, 241 households have confirmed they would like to proceed with work.

According to research by a group of leading engineering and climate change experts, published last year, "Green Deal measures could create new problems in the future, with inappropriately insulated properties experiencing poor indoor air quality and significant summer overheating. It said the increased likelihood of summer heatwaves could lead to rise in heat-related deaths from 2,000 to 5,000 per year by 2080 "if action was not taken".

The Department for Energy and Climate Change says it has now issued fresh guidance to Green Deal suppliers to help reduce potential risk from installing energy efficiency measures.

He said there were simple measures anyone could take - whether living in a well-insulated home or not - to keep heat levels down, such as keeping windows closed during the day to trap cool air and opening them at night. Fitting shutters to windows and painting exterior walls white - both common sights in Mediterranean countries - would also help, but were unlikely to be widely adopted in the UK due to the relative rarity of heatwaves.

Here is the link to the full BBC report.

10 ways the UK is ill-prepared for a heatwave

- Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

It's been a long time coming, but at the end of last week the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) finally announced the details for the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, with the figures expected to provide a much needed boost to the UK's renewable energy industry.

The RHI will allow householders to be paid hundreds of pounds a year for any energy generated by renewable sources such as solar thermal panels, biomass boilers and heat pumps. By persuading people to install and switch over to these methods, it is believed Britain will successfully be able to meet renewable targets and cut down the country's carbon footprint, as well as save householders money on energy bills.

The tariff levels have been set at:

  • 7.3p/kWh for air source heat pumps
  • 12.2p/kWh for biomass boilers
  • 18.8p/kWh for ground source heat pumps 
  • At least 19.2 p/kWh for solar thermal

Energy & Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: "The Coalition is committed to helping hardworking families with the cost of living. Investing for the long term in new renewable heat technologies will mean cleaner energy and cheaper bills. So this package of measures is a big step forward in our drive to get innovative renewable heating kit in our homes.

"Householders can now invest in a range of exciting heating technologies knowing how much the tariff will be for different renewable heat technologies and benefit from the clean green heat produced. We are also sending a clear signal to industry that the Coalition is 110% committed to boosting and sustaining growth in this sector"

The scheme will be made available to homeowners, private and social landlords, third party owners of heating systems, people who build their own homes and anyone who has installed a renewable heat system since 15th July 2009. It currently supports air to water heat pumps, biomass only boilers and biomass pellet stoves with back boilers, ground and water source heat pumps, flat plate and evacuated tube solar thermal panels.

Applicants must complete a Green Deal Assessment before submitting their application and ensure they have met minimum loft (250mm) and cavity wall insulation requirements, where appropriate. All installations and installers must be MCS certified (or certified by an equivalent scheme). MCS certified installers are currently required to be members of the Renewable Energy Consumer Code, which is backed by the Trading Standards Institute.

The DECC is currently finalising the details  of the expansion of the non-domestic RHI scheme and will confirm what comes next in Autumn alongside the outcome of the tariff review. The DECC's aim to introduce these changes from Spring 2014 onwards remains unchanged.

Full story/more information:

Heating, Ventilation & Plumbing Magazine

With the weather constantly on the up at the moment it seems like Britain may be able to enjoy a proper summer for once. However industry experts have warned that homes insulated under the Green Deal scheme could be facing dangerously high temperatures both over the coming months and future summer times. 

Prof Chris Goodier, of Loughborough University’s department of civil and building engineering, told the BBC that the risk of overheating had been overlooked in the “big rush to insulate and make homes airtight”. He cited homes in urban areas are most at risk from problems during summer heatwaves. 

"Overheating is like the little boy at the back of the class waving his hand," he said. "It is forgotten about because the other challenges are so big."

"If you are in the wrong type of house, facing the wrong way, in the wrong street and you don’t deal with heat in the right way, it is a problem. Particularly for the elderly. They are going to suffer. Suffering means they are going to die from overheating."

His team's report suggested that with the increased likelihood of summer heatwaves in the future, there could be a rise in heat-related deaths from 2,000 to 5,000 per year by 2080 if action was not taken. To combat this, the DECC are now issuing fresh guidance to Green Deal suppliers to help reduce this risk while continuing to install energy efficient measures.

In a statement they said: "If energy efficiency measures are installed appropriately, overheating should not be a common problem and there’s guidance available for those involved in the Green Deal."

“The DECC is working with experts and other government departments to understand the potential risk of overheating in retrofitted homes and ensure that the energy efficiency supply chain, including those working within the Green Deal, are aware and guidance is provided on homes which are most likely to be vulnerable and what steps could be taken to minimise any risk of overheating."

Via Construction Enquirer

The Department of Energy and Climate Change have released the first quarterly Green Deal statistics, which have been met to mixed response by leading industry professionals. These statistics show that almost 40,000 people so far have had an assessment carried out.

The key figures for up to the 16th June are:

  • 38,259 homes have had a Green Deal assessment
  • A rise in assessments every month: 7,491 in March, 9,522 in April, 12,146 in May
  • 241 customers have obtained a quote from a Green Deal Provider and have confirmed they wish to make energy efficient improvements to their home
  • Four customers have signed up to a Green Deal Plan and progress is being made to install energy efficient measures
  • 961 people have claimed cashback for a new boiler installation – 902 gas and 59 oil boilers
  • 1,254 installer organisations are accredited and qualified to work within the Green Deal.
Plumb Center's Head of Sustainability Tim Polland has praised these figures, remarking that "40,000 assessments is a significant marketplace and installers will know that represents more than a fad – I can’t imagine any installer not thinking it’s a good thing." He expressed optimism that the scheme would continue to grow past "those who are passionate about the scheme" and that stressed:"...the people at the heart of Green Deal knew it wasn’t going to produce a tsunami of demand at the start, it was going to be a scheme of longevity and the time to judge is at its end, not its beginning."

On the other side of the argument, HHIC (Heating & Hotwater Industry Council) Director Roger Webb considered the figures "very disappointing". He went on to say: "However, on a positive note, they will be a wake-up call for the government to simplify the scheme and to really engage with the small installer. It is not too late for the Green Deal as the scheme has hardly got off the ground and further action will be required to reform the scheme. The heating industry from the success of the cashback incentive want to stress that figures prove that changing a boiler is one of the key routes to gain consumer interest in the Green Deal and enabling further measures to be taken up."

Meanwhile, earlier last week it was revealed that a cross-section of industry leaders had written to all three main political parties in an attempt to persuade them to come together to ensure that the Green Deal doesn't fail. The letter was addressed to energy secretary Ed Davey (Liberal Democrat), minister Greg Barker (Conservative) and shadow energy minister Luciana Berger (Labour) can be viewed in its entirety below;

-----

We are taking the unusual step of writing the same letter to all three of the main political parties, setting out our major concerns with current retrofit policy and our belief that we can only address this most urgent of challenges with a greater degree of cross party consensus, and collaboration between government and industry.

Government’s own figures show that meeting our legally binding carbon targets requires a high level of retrofit across the UK’s 26 million domestic properties, at an average of one home per minute between now and 2050. Clearly this is a monumental task, but it also represents a tremendous opportunity: to reduce energy bills, improve health, provide jobs in the construction sector, and avoid additional costs of new generating capacity.

However, to have any chance of successfully tackling this, it will require government – either this one, or indeed any future one – to address the following major issues:

Green Deal interest rates: The current rate of interest for Green Deal finance is in danger of acting as a major disincentive to take up, as well as minimising the extent of the measures available in a Green Deal package. Taking inspiration from the effect of recent government intervention to support new build homes, government should explore, with stakeholders, what options are available to reduce risk associated with providing Green Deal finance – even if this means greater intervention in the market.

Long term structural incentives: Even if Green Deal was available at a much lower cost of finance, long term structural incentives would still be needed to ensure sufficient uptake. Council tax or stamp duty could be used to send a signal to consumers and the market on the direction of travel, and both could be applied in a fiscally neutral way to HMT. Regulation could also be used, in particular Consequential Improvements, which government itself has estimated would lead to an additional 2.2 million Green Deals being taken up.

Stakeholder engagement: There needs to be a better on-going dialogue between government and those trying to deliver the Green Deal on the ground, in order to overcome obstacles, reduce unnecessary complexity, identify future issues and learn lessons. At the very least this should take place through a high level industry advisory board co-chaired by a minister and a senior industry figure. It could also involve a more operational body, or ‘hub’, which government has previously expressed support for.

Long-term certainty and political consensus: There is an increasing sense that the Green Deal, and indeed energy bills more generally, are being used as a political football, which is not good for confidence in the market. These challenges will affect any party, or parties, of government and very bold decisions will be required. We believe there needs to be a new consensus forged between the main parties around retrofit, to depoliticise what is ultimately a long-term challenge that it is in the nation’s interest to successfully address.

Yours sincerely,

  • Paul King - Chief executive, UK Green Building Council
  • James Cameron - Chairman, Climate Change Capital
  • Mark Clare - Group chief executive of Barratt Developments Plc
  • John Frankiewicz - CEO, Willmott Dixon Capital Works
  • Peter Hindle - general delegate, UK, Ireland and South Africa, Saint Gobain
  • Ian Marchant - CEO, SSE Plc
  • Gene Murtagh - CEO, Kingspan Group Plc
  • John Sinfield - Chief Executive, Knauf Insulation
  • Russell Smith - Managing director, Parity Projects & acting chairman of RetrofitWorks
  • Nigel Taylor - Chief operating officer, Services, Carillion Plc
  • Peter Walls - CEO, Gentoo

NO! It’s not, is the simple answer.

The number of homes installing cavity wall insulation has crashed by 97% since the government's flagship energy–efficiency scheme was introduced, new figures have revealed. Previous energy-efficiency schemes meant cavity wall insulation – one of the cheapest ways of cutting energy bills and climate-warming carbon emissions, was heavily subsidised or free. But under the Green Deal, which aims to upgrade the efficiency of 14m homes, households have to take out a loan to pay for the measure.

Figures from the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency, which monitors the issue of installations and guarantees, show that only 1,138 installations were completed in April 2013, down from 49,650 in April 2012. The government's own impact assessment predicted in January 2012 that cavity wall insulations would collapse by 67%, but the reality has far outstripped this estimate. Government data shows that 1.4m cavity wall insulations are needed to meet its carbon targets.

This crash shows a "desperate need for financial stimuli for the Green Deal".

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The Green Deal is an ambitious, long-term programme designed to deliver home improvement in Great Britain on an unprecedented scale." He noted that a cashback scheme currently offers £250 for cavity wall insulation, although this will not cover the total cost. "Additional help for this type of work may also be available for people in hard to treat properties, and those on benefits or low income," he added.

Luciana Berger, the shadow minister for climate change, said: "This staggering collapse in the number of energy-efficiency installations is a disaster for our economy and a body blow for hundreds of small businesses across the country. This is all the more damaging when there are at least 5.8m homes in the UK that still need cavity wall insulation, according to the government's own estimates."

The government's impact assessment also predicted a drop of 93% in loft insulations, the most cost effective energy-efficiency measure of all!

- Mark Jenkins