Green Deal: Plan A or Plan B?

Plan A isn’t looking too hot at the moment. I don’t think that DECC thinks that there should be a Plan B, nor do I get the impression that they are worried about takeup. They should be. The history of energy efficiency improvement programmes shows that it is very difficult to get widespread uptake and I don’t expect the Green Deal to be any different. People don’t like to have their lives disrupted and the small savings coming from the Green Deal (if there are any), aren’t going to be a sufficient incentive for many people. The Coalition thinks that the private sector will take on the Green Deal and run with it, but where are they? I am told that DECC are going to spend £2M on an advertising programme for the Green Deal. What will that buy? A few bus shelter posters up and down the country.
The early signs that the Green Deal will be up and running to replace CERT and CESP are not auspicious, the energy companies have ECO obligations to fulfill, but the Green Deal system is not fully in operation yet, and doesn’t look like being in operation for another six months or so. Among other problems this may result in some ECO funded projects starting soon which won’t be able to include Green Deal measures.

The underlying principle of building renovation is that you should do all the works you can when you go to the trouble of scaffolding the building and getting the builders in, but instead by making each set of improvements dependant on different pots of funding each with their own rules, the Coalition are splitting the work packages up and adding to the costs. Solid wall insulation to be delivered by one fund (ECO), and boilers by another(Green Deal or RHI) and two other funds available (FiT and CSCO) for microgeneration and community schemes.

Plan B should be to hold off the introduction of the Green Deal/ECO/RHI by six months until they are both ready to go, the funds are in place, and a decent sized advertising campaign has been done by government to build enthusiasm for the programme. CERT should be extended by the same period to prevent wholesale employment losses in the insulation industry.

To deliver som enthusiasm on the part of the public, there needs to be some additional incentive greater than the tiny amounts of money currently being mentioned including cashbacks and actual savings.

One option could be a revamp of council tax, the Local authorities HECA legislation is being recharged to give them a duty to get the Green Deal moving, but they will have the same problem motivating people. In order to make this fiscally neutral you have to raise council tax for everyone else by a tiny amount at the same time as reducing it for those who take up the Green Deal. This type of incentive is already being used to tax heavily polluting vehicles, so why not extend the principle to heavily polluting houses. We would need to use EPCs to highlight the CO2 emission of the properties/square meter.

The same goes for people selling properties. The point of sale/purchase/rental is a brilliant opportunity and we should legislate that a Green Deal assessment is carried out on every property when they are about to go on sale. This is only a tiny additional cost on top of producing an up to date EPC. This would give the seller information on work they could carry out to improve the value of their property and the purchaser the same information so that any changes they propose to carry out before moving in can incorporate the Green Deal measures. Stamp duty could play a part by being linked to the Green Deal and anyone who carried out the Green Deal would qualify for a lower band of taxation, this would be fiscally neutral so even George Osborne couldn’t argue with it. Simples!

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