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Mixed reactions to Green Deal

Alex Johnson

63c56eec5507a2b6edfd5eb19324c1c07b01b913 300x256 Mixed reactions to Green DealThe government’s Green Deal went live this week with the aim of giving people in England and Wales the chance to transform their homes by paying for 45 different types of energy efficient home improvements with the savings on their energy bills.

Launching the scheme, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said: “More and more families are being hit by the rising cost of fuel bills and the best way people can protect themselves from increased costs is to use less energy. This is where the Green Deal comes in, giving people a whole new way to pay for energy saving home improvements. The Green Deal is a great deal. Improve the look and feel of your home, make it cosier and at the same time save energy – what’s not to like?”

Among those adding their support is Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com. “Green Deal has the potential to help consumers afford energy against a backdrop of escalating fuel bills. Our surveys tell us that many people simply do not know how to make their homes more energy efficient. They also need assurance about the quality of any work done, and help with funding,” she said. “Green Deal ensures that accredited professionals to do the work, backed by strong consumer protection. It also provides the financing, so will enable hard pressed consumers to go ahead with confidence, providing much needed protection against rising bills.”

But not everybody has been so impressed. Luciana Berger MP, Labour’s Shadow Climate Change Minister, said: “For months Labour has been warning that to be successful the Green Deal must be a good deal for the public, after all the whole point of the scheme is meant to be that households save money on their energy bills. Unfortunately the Government hasn’t listened and now because of sky high interest rates, hidden charges and penalty payments the reality for most people will be that the Green Deal ends up costing them more than they save.”

Friends of the Earth Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton added: “A Green Deal to cut energy waste from our homes and insulate Britons from soaring fuel bills is a great idea, but the scheme is undermined by significant flaws. The interest rate on loans is bound to undermine the Green Deal’s appeal to cash-strapped households. Bolder Government action is needed to help those really struggling to heat their homes – recent cuts to insulation programmes must be reversed.”

Gerry Hannigan, an engineer from Battersea in London and one of the earliest to enrol on the scheme, said his end of terrace Victorian flat is draughty despite his best efforts. “I’ve been using low energy light bulbs for years, and had the loft insulated, but I have wanted to have solid wall insulation since I moved in about 15 years ago. I work from home part time, so I do think about my energy expenditure, and I have seen my bills rise over the last few years. However, I don’t want to let any old builder through the door. It is important to me the person coming into my home is accredited, that they have recognisable qualifications.

“Getting money back wasn’t my reason for taking the Green Deal up so quickly, though obviously I won’t be turning down any money. I wanted to get involved with the Green Deal for three reasons. Firstly it makes economic sense. Secondly I’m a typical engineer, I’m always looking to improve things and make them better. Thirdly, I am sort of green, though it is not a driving force in itself. Acting in a green way is sensible behaviour. It doesn’t matter to me how the loan is paid back, though I admit the package does appear complicated.”

Meanwhile, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) argues that the Green Deal needs to involve more small, local builders to work. They say just over a quarter of small to medium-sized construction firms are planning to get involved, but many say the application and accreditation process is overly complicated.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Trusted local trades are ready and willing to help homeowners fit energy-saving measures such as double-glazing and insulation. However, many have expressed frustration that it is not easy for smaller firms to get involved in Green Deal work, and that there hasn’t been a marketing campaign to explain to householders what the Green Deal is all about.

“People want to use their local builder to have energy-efficient improvement work carried out, because they know them and have used them before. But the scheme has been designed so large numbers of small firms are excluded because of the significant costs involved in offering Green Deal finance directly to homeowners. Instead local firms will have to find a large finance provider to work with, rather than getting started on work which would boost the economy and help home-owners save money on their fuel bills.

“We welcome the Green Deal launch because in principle it is good for the environment and great for the economy, but without more support, training and publicity the Government risks this policy becoming a damp squib.”

Additional reporting by Lima Curtis

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