Barker reveals plans to scrap Green Deal red tape at packed out Ecobuild conference
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
Barker reveals plans to scrap Green Deal red tape at packed out conference
He’s not a film star, artist or famous musician – but it appears that energy minister Greg Barker can certainly draw a crowd.
Hoards of eco enthusiasts were left disappointed today after being turned away from his Ecobuild address because the room was packed out. There were even people sneaking in, pretending they were part of his entourage (you know who you are!) and a makeshift one-in-one-out procedure being deployed.
If it shows anything, it’s how important energy and fuel is becoming in the housing debate, with bills set to rise from the current average of £1,200 to £4,000 a year by 2020.
The Green Deal – which will allow households to borrow private finance to retrofit their home and pay it back through their energy savings – is seen as one of the ways residents can take control of their bills.
Architects, builders, activists and businesses – still reeling from the Feed in Tariff (FIT) fiasco – packed out the Platinum suite at Ecobuild to hear Barker confirm there would be “no delay to the Green Deal” launch and brush aside calls to link the Green Deal with the tax system to incentivise take-up.
After he finally arrived a little later than billed – and after keeping his father waiting in the audience – Barker announced he was slashing a number of hurdles for organisations, particularly SMEs, wanting to become Green Deal providers, including scrapping:
- the need to have a surety bond in place prior to authorisation
- the need of an Independent Conciliation Service
- the need to hold warranties for the length of the plan
He also plans to introduce a Green Deal Ombudsman for consumer complaints.
While delegates were awaiting the minister’s appearance, UK Green Building Council chief Paul King labelled the Government’s handling of the FITs as “catastrophic” and said it was crucial the Government instilled confidence in businesses preparing for the Green Deal.
He also called on the Government to link the Green Deal with stamp duty and council tax, making less energy efficient homes pay more through the tax system. This, he said, would boost demand and increase take-up.
He also said he would be in favour of a delay to the Green Deal if it meant preserving its integrity and getting it right.
He said: “I would much rather delay it rather than go and blunder it as it will take 10 years to get it out of the public consciousness.
In what appeared a feeble attempt to rule out a delay and reassure delegates the programme was on track, Barker said it would be a “managed” roll-out.
“I don’t want a huge bang in the autumn,” he said. “It will be a steady roll-out and then build up to 2013.”
As he continued, you could see the confidence in people’s faces seep away.
“We won’t get everything right on day one. Some parts will go better than others,” he said after he alluded to the complex IT systems energy companies will need to have in place to allow customers to be billed through their meters.
His message, however, for housing associations and councils couldn’t be clearer – he wants a diverse range of Green Deal providers to bring the costs down for tenants and residents.
He cited Gentoo rubbing shoulders with Eon, Marks and Spencer and councils as the ideal mix of organisations that he would like to see be involved as Green Deal providers.
And he made clear there will be no ‘one-size fits all approach’ with a number of different models being planned by organisations, including “keeping all the functions in house, out sourcing the supply chain and working in partnership with SMEs.”
And, in that sense, it's perfectly in tune with localism - scale back funding - or provide none at all - allow private firms to come in, don't over prescribe it, and leave it to the market to flourish...fingers crossed!
He also emphasised that minimum energy standards in the private rented sector and changes to Part L of the Building Regulations would drive take-up – as well as a £200m Government fund to provide a special time-limited ‘introductory’ offer to boost the early take up of the scheme.
He also linked the Green Deal with British aspiration in property, likening it to the “sale of council homes in 1980s”.
He said: “This is an aspirational agenda. We know people are always looking to improve their home even in times of austerity. It’s part of the British DNA.”
The move to slash red tape for Green Deal poviders will be a welcome move.
Speaking to Alliance Homes last month – a housing association looking to become a Green Deal provider – it said it may not be ready for the starting gun in October.
Steve Drew, director of assets, alluded to the rigorous requirements, saying “there’s a hell of a lot of work still to be done.”
However, it’s the Government’s ambition to link the Green Deal with the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – and other landlords linking it to their solar PV programmes – that could provide the additional revenue to make the Green Deal work for their tenants. Many feel alone the Green Deal won’t be applicable to their stock because it’s “too good” in a sense - the immediate energy saving measures have been done.
There was also optimism that landlords will be able to tap into low-cost finance through the Green Deal Finance Company. “It’s a not-for-profit mutual and will raise finance at competitive rates and passport that to consumers on single digit interest rates,” said Barker.
He also announced today a new advice service will be going live on 2 April, and will initially provide impartial advice to consumers on existing energy efficiency offers and renewable energy incentives.
Ross Macmillan is the deputy editor of 24housing magazine