How are we going to improve our housing stock, reduce our energy bills, and meet our carbon targets? A Green Deal update.

19th August, 2013

The following provides an update of the Green Deal and its progress in establishing a revitalised retrofit market, its current lack of demand, and what is being done about this.

Will the Green Deal achieve its goal of setting up a new market?  Terry McGivern says it isn’t so far, but the Green Deal ORB’s first annual report suggests otherwise:

Terry McGivern, head of resource efficient buildings at the Institute for Sustainability, thinks that the commercial sector should lead the Green Deal scheme, while the government should only facilitate market expansion instead of trying to lead it.  According to McGivern, this is because change happens when there are commercial opportunities, not because of any sense of obligation to help homeowners reduce their utility bills or reduce our environmental impact.  In addition, he notes that despite the sluggish uptake of the scheme by homeowners, the home-improvement market has been flourishing.  This indicates that more local firms, who are trusted and dominate the market that the Green Deal seeks to stimulate, need to be included in efforts to improve Britain’s housing stock.

Since the government ultimately aim to improve the majority of the 26 million households within the UK (and let’s not forget that more are currently being constructed), the scheme is an ‘amazing challenge’ that is not to be underestimated.  In its current state, McGivern does not think that the scheme has established a market to do this.

The Green Deal ORB recently released its first annual report, which presents a different picture to that given by McGivern.  The report emphasises direct engagement with construction and installation businesses to usher in market participants.  The ORB, for instance, attended the Retro Expo at NEC Birmingham, running 10 information sessions over 3 days, and also held Provider Workshops in December 2012 and May 2013, as well as supporting DECC on the Green Deal terrace at EcoBuild 2013.  A Consumer Search Tool, an advanced Participant Register to monitor the supply chain, and a Participant Login Area which manages data and supports the Consumer and Participant search engines, have also been set up to make the emerging market transparent for all those involved.  Since the aim has been to establish a transparent and dynamic market structure for renewable energy measures under the Green Deal to flourish, the ORB’s report suggests that they are effectively on track to achieve their goals.

What about marketing and awareness of the actual scheme?

What seems clear is that, despite ORB establishing the necessary commercial and legal foundations for a market, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has not done enough to market the scheme so that the market receives a substantial amount of demand from homeowners.  There is an emerging market out there, its ability to supply slowly being fostered, but there does not seem to be the demand to match it.  Here at Homeswithgreen, we seek to help out in marketing renewable energy schemes so homeowners are aware of the savings they can make!

Is there support from local communities?
The government has stated at its third All Parliamentary Green Deal Meeting that it plans to change the way local communities perceive renewable energy, and regional projects are now popping up across Britain.  As such, new guidance plans have recently been released to help local authorities allow their local residents to have a bigger say in the setup of solar and wind projects.  This more direct engagement with local communities will create greater awareness of the energy efficiency measures the government wish to promote, and help us in our aim to make 15% of all the energy we use come from renewable sources by 2020.  Community secretary Eric Pickles has stated that every community needs to put a local plan in place, and planning campaigner Naomi Luhde-Thompson, of Friends of the Earth, has also stated that  ‘urgent action’ is needed if we are to meet our carbon targets.

There is engagement with commercial outlets, and with local communities, but even if they start looking for Green Deal providers, can homeowners trust installers?
In order to ensure confidence in the installation of new energy efficiency measures there have been legal changes to building regulations.

The Department of Communities and Local Government have made changes to Part L of the building code.   Those building new homes now have to cut carbon emissions from their construction process by 6%, which should save businesses Ł16 million per year and lower people’s fuel bills.  These legal changes should also give the retrofit and housing construction industry a clearer idea of the standards to be delivered to homeowners seeking energy efficiency measures.

But energy-efficiency standards for extensions and replacement windows on existing homes will not be strengthened, as this could be counter-productive by imposing ‘additional costs on hard-working families trying to improve their homes’ (Baroness Harman).  This is mainly because revenues are currently insufficient to cover costs.  In addition, by next spring there are plans to finalise a new homes quality assurance process, and ‘allowable solutions’ which will allow offsite emission reduction measures so homeowners can achieve a zero carbon rating and improve the marketability of their property to potential buyers.

What’s going to happen next?
The government are aware that the Green Deal, as a scheme promoting energy efficient installations, needs more publicity and outreach, so they will continue with their new proactive approach.  ORB will continue seeking out new market participants, and McGivern’s recommendation for involving trustworthy local firms is likely to become a reality soon, as the Green Deal is now being marketed at a more local level.  As for building regulations, the recent legal developments demonstrate that efforts are being made to ensure homeowners can trust installers, they are just yet to finalise all the legislation.

The Institute for Sustainability are partnering on the Retrofit Roadshow programme which runs from September to the end of the year.  For full details visit – www.retrofit-roadshow.co.uk

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