A storm has been brewing over the Government’s Green Deal for some time and what were once distant rumblings from energy advisors, climate sceptics and the energy industry have built to an overwhelming din, making it impossible to separate the facts or give consumers a fighting chance to get their head around one of the most important pieces of legislation to go through parliament in recent years.
However, despite all of that the simple fact remains that the Green Deal cannot fail. The Government will not let it. This is their much heralded flagship programme, it was the banner that flew before them as they took up the reins of the UK, and the key promise which defined them as the ‘greenest government ever’. The dream was to be the Government who finally made a difference and gave us all the boot up the bum we evidently needed to take energy efficiency in our homes seriously. And afterwards the coalition could take graceful bows on the world stage as the applause rained down.
We know now, as does Greg Barker, that this is unlikely to happen, but it doesn’t mean that the Green Deal is doomed to fail. The second consultation has just closed, and from the responses posted publicly – such as those from the CIOB and the British Property Federation – there is a general consensus which welcomes the ideology behind such a large scale energy saving operation, but quite rightly warns that there is absolutely no incentive for an already cash-strapped public to invest, therefore uptake will be extremely low.
The other main concerns raised are the importance of completely independent assessors, a marked increase in support for education on External Wall Insulation (EWI) and Internal Wall Insulation (IWI) and a revision of how long an Energy Performance Certificates is valid for to ensure any installed measures still deliver on their energy efficiency promises several years down the line. The second point is perhaps the most important when it comes to convincing the public to take out a Green Deal package. If current statistics are anything to go by, the UK public is suffering from severe mental block when it comes to loft and cavity wall insulation.
A somewhat surprising fact, considering the abundance of free or discounted insulation offers and continuing campaigns highlighting the benefits of insulation from the likes of the Energy Saving Trust. In truth, if we cannot cope with two of the easiest forms of insulation out there, there is absolutely no chance that we will adopt EWI or IWI – two measures placed in the spotlight during the last reading of the Green Deal bill in the Commons. Those in the insulation industry have stressed this fact, both in their responses to the consultation and in open letters to the DECC. Indeed, even DECC has admitted that insulation installations are expected to fall dramatically once the Green Deal has been rolled out. As Gregg Barker has acknowledged, the true efficiency savings under the Green Deal have to come from improving the fabric of our buildings – in other words, maximising the insulation levels of our homes. If levels are predicted to fall surely the only logical conclusion is that the Green Deal will fail?
Based on its current model, yes. However, the chances of the Green Deal that will be rolled out this autumn bearing much resemblance to the current proposals is minimal to say the least. The Government is caught between a rock and a hard place; the deal cannot fail, and yet voices from every direction are pointing out glaring and fatal flaws in the whole plan. Realistically they have no option but to implement some radical changes. It might be similar to a square peg being forced through a round hole but the Green Deal will arrive and it will, in some capacity, work to reduce energy consumption in UK buildings.