Posted by: Nick Duxbury10/05/2012
How many green deal groups does it take to change an energy saving light bulb? There is no glib punchline to deliver on this (that I am aware of). But I feel like maybe someone has told a joke along these lines within the walls of DECC HQ at some point in the last year or so.
To date, within each sector, there have been several groups of organisations trying to make sense of the green deal for their respective industries. Many of these have been made up of existing membership bodies and lobby groups – all with their own agendas. Within these groups there have then been splinter groups and sub-groups.
This was inevitable and, to a large extent, positive (it reflected interest in the green deal). However, civil servants doing the rounds, spieling the same spiel, and answering the same questions must have laughed at the enormous overlap between the groups.
Then came the UK Green Building Council and Green Deal Finance Company’s efforts to unite cross-sector organisations in two heavyweight groups. This made sense. But finally, as Inside Housing revealed last week, there is now a new super group in town – a hybrid of both.
Enter the aptly titled Green Deal Providers Group. Members of this organisation are players hoping to make the scheme work – socially and financially. In the larger associates group there are some of the big boys the government have long touted as being the deliverers of green deal (M&S and Tesco etc) that are interested, but are not yet sold on its viability of its business case. And then within this are an especially committed selection of would-be green deal providers including energy companies, contractors and social landlords Gentoo Group and Affinity Sutton. These companies have each put £5,000 on the table to pay for project management costs over the next 10 weeks as they try to iron out the many creases that remain in the government’s flagship energy efficiency policy. Unlike previous groups, this one has the ear of DECC and is working with the Green Deal Finance Company and other associated parties so that the problems they work through have a constant sounding board to hand – one that can influence the final policy landscape accordingly with the top players all at the same table.
Ironically, on the same day that we revealed this group had been formed there was also another one. The Energy Efficiency Partnership for Buildings, was also launched. It is effectively a relaunch of the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes, run by charitable organisation the National Energy Foundation and features several of the same members as the Green Deal Providers’ Group. The overlap is clear, but this group will also form a different function. This one will link various parts of the green deal supply chain – from finance through to installers – in one network body. While the Green Deal Providers Group is intended to be a short term means of organisations helping DECC shape the final policy landscape before it launches, the EEPfB is a much more long-term proposition to help the industry hit the ground running.
It strikes me as excellent news that both groups have been formed. For the green deal to work, it needs to work for every party involved – all of whom are going to have to get used to building a working relationship rather than in sectoral silos. There needs to be detailed discussion that steers clear of hazy concepts and focusses instead on hard numbers and viability.
That said, there is still a place for individual sectors to have their own green deal groups too. As we reported last Friday, social landlords are also taking the bull by the horns and trying to work out how they can make the green deal work specifically for them. A group of landlords of varying size and location have come together to crunch numbers and turn the ‘theoretical into the practical’. They are finally working out what a social housing green deal provider would look like so that they will be in a position to start bidding for frameworks that are emerging from local authorities such as Newcastle, Nottingham and Manchester. Places for People, Gentoo Group, Southern Housing, Black Country Housing and Accord are all very different organisations. Each one will have different tenant needs and different housing stock – not to mention different financial muscle. By sharing their concerns and problems and working out solutions with practical cost impacts they hope to form at least three separate costed green deal provider models. Once again, they have a DECC representative sitting in – something that three months ago would have been a struggle to achieve.
While many are worrying about how the government will apply any stick to herding private sector households towards the green deal after the Prime Minister kicked consequential improvements into the long grass last month, these groups are thinking long-term and helping the government generate some answers. The likes of UKGBC and ACE are using the ‘conservatory tax’ saga to push harder than ever for VAT cuts for green deal measures. This is a message that the new industry bodies are especially well positioned to pile drive home with one clear and powerful voice.
This one issue, more than the many others out there, might answer the question of how many green deal groups it takes to influence change.
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