Posted by: Nick Duxbury04/10/2012
A few months ago, I wrote that I would like to see the green deal revolution televised. Clearly I didn’t expect the launch of the government’s flagship energy efficiency scheme to be televised.
I didn’t even expect it to be advertised on bill boards. However, I did expect, as the bare minimum a press release. This launch was so embarrassingly soft that it was mute. The 1 October arrived, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s press office decided that the less written about the much hyped, and recently bruised, green deal the better.
Already, in its first week of existence, it feels like even its architects are treating it like a fart in a lift.
Many landlords appear to be losing interest in the green deal and instead forming a plan b. This plan b appears to heavily reliant on accessing the £1.3 billion Energy Company Obligation and using it, along with other income streams to retrofit their stock in a similar manner to the current CERP and CESP programmes. A few providers – London & Quadrant and Gentoo being the most notable – are on board with the green deal. But, as Inside Housing has reported, there are a lot of landlords that have fundamental objections to getting their tenants to pay a fixed charge for green deal works. In some cases, this is because landlords believe that it is yet another distraction from paying the rent and could lead to an increase in rent arrears. In other cases it is moral stance relating to not-for-profit landlords’ social purpose. In the majority of cases, it is because the green deal appears complicated and not overly applicable to social housing which generally requires hard-to-treat measures. This may prove to be a short sighted approach in time.
Either way, it appears the social housing sector is not enthusing about the green deal yet. But you would at least expect the government to be trumpeting about its potential and its future – especially given a.) it doesn’t cost the government anything and b.) it could boost the ailing economy by creating jobs and a new sector, and c.) it will help Cameron look the electorate in the eye when he next describes the coalition as ‘the greenest government ever’. Nick Clegg cited the green deal as being one of the Lib Dems’ big achievements in government at the Lib Dem conference last week – even if Ed Davey admitted it could take four years to take off.
For me, the big test about the future of the green deal will come next week at the Conservative Party Conference. A glance through the fringe sessions doesn’t fill me with hope. There are some about the green deal, but not nearly as many as you would expect for a live ‘revolutionary’ flagship government policy. If the green deal fails to get a mention in Cameron’s big conference speech (will he use notes?) and there is no big stage for Greg Barker to try and throw his weight behind the policy, it will be hard not to conclude that the government is back peddling away from the green deal, and hoping to pass it off as just another ‘crackers’ Lib Dem invention – just like they did with the so called ‘conservatory tax’.
All this is a shame. True, the finance mechanisms won’t be in place until late January; and there is no interest rate sorted yet; and, as Inside Housing revealed, lenders haven’t got their heads round it yet; and the Green Deal Finance Company hasn’t got state aid sign off yet; oh, and uptake is expected to be slow; and no consumers don’t know what the green deal is; and yes, there are only a few accredited green deal providers. But, despite all these problems, fundamentally, the green deal remains a good idea. Now is the time that the government needs to embrace the green deal and support it rather than distance itself from it.
From Green paper
Examining the latest developments from the world of sustainable housing.