What’s going on with the Green Deal now?
A. By this, I assume you’re talking about reports in at least one national newspaper last weekend about an “impact assessment” written for ministers by a top civil servant at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which suggested that the scheme could actually slow down the rate at which lofts and cavity walls are insulated.
The reports even quoted a spokesman for the Association for the Conservation of Energy, which represents the insulation industry, who said that they expected around 16,000 jobs to go in the sector over the next few months.
And since, as you probably know, the Green Deal is supposed to be the Government’s flagship scheme for slashing greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging 14 million householders to make their homes more energy efficient, this is more than a little confusing – not to say embarrassing for the Government!
So what, as you may indeed ask, is going on?
Well, until the end of last year, energy companies such as British Gas and so on were obliged by law to offer their customers things like loft or wall insulation at knockdown prices. A nice, simple, easily understood scheme – which resulted in widespread take-up, and a booming home insulation industry.
Cue the much-trumpeted and rather more complex Green Deal, under which householders are basically encouraged to take out a loan of up to £10,000 to have the necessary work done. The loans themselves are repaid through higher energy bills over a period of 25 years – subject to what the Government calls The Golden Rule, which says that the savings made through greater energy efficiency must be greater than the cost of the improvements required.
Now of course, this effectively means that the home improvements in question are free – which ministers understandably think ought to make the proposition much more attractive to hard-pressed homeowners. And they may well be right, in the longer term.
Meanwhile, however, consumers are understandably wary of the new scheme, and in particular, the fact that Green Deal loans will be tied to the property, which means that if it is subsequently sold, repayments continue to be made by the new owner. The result: 1,000 insulation workers already made redundant just before Christmas, and another 1,200 given notice.
Still, we are assured that everything will turn out alright in the end…