Green Deal: the heat is on

23 Apr 13

After a slow start, the Green Deal is proving a popular way for the government to attempt to reduce carbon emissions and for residents to lower their energy bills. But there’s also a major role for councils to help turn the temperature up on the scheme

They say a week is a long time in politics, so there should be little surprise at how much things can change over a few months. In the case of the Green Deal, the transformation has been dramatic.

Announced at the end of 2010 and launched in 2012, the Green Deal allows for the installation of energy savings packages in homes, with capital and interest costs paid through reduced energy bills. The first step is for people to get a Green Deal assessment from a certified assessor and then to agree an installation programme and a repayment plan with a provider.

But the process started slowly, as the energy and climate change minister Greg Barker reluctantly admitted in November last year. Barker had the unenviable task of responding to probing questions regarding the number of Green Deal assessments lodged up to that point across Great Britain. To a mixture of national scorn and concern, from politicians, professionals and the press alike, his answer was a simple, round figure: Zero.

The update provided for the end of February this year, caused a rather different reaction. There were 1,803 registrations, with the level of public interest measurably rising daily. Fast forward to the close of March and the number had rocketed 7,465 in just one calendar month, up a whopping 332%, to 9,268 in total.

At the same time, the official number of Green Deal assessor companies and organisations certified had jumped from 77 to 108, with some 1,003 advisors on their books.

The pot of money put aside for the scheme has also been making news for the right reasons. The Green Deal Finance Company announced in March that it had secured a £244m financing agreement. This first-year credit line may even reach £300m if a bid for an additional debt facility with the European Investment Bank proves successful. On the back of the funding already in place, the finance company officially opened for business on 11 April.

All of a sudden, there is a sense of momentum and an accompanying degree of pressure on local authorities, housing organisations and potential providers to be ready to respond to enquiries– both at a strategic level, as well as on the frontline. Now, the heat is on.

The role of local authorities and other public bodies may not be immediately obvious but the government’s consultation acknowledges their potential as a catalyst for driving the Green Deal. Research from the Department of Energy and Climate Change also suggests that local authorities’ brand makes them ideal candidates to facilitate the scheme due to citizens’ trust in them compared to businesses.

Early adopters have already entered the market. Back in October last year, Carillion Energy Services won one of the first Green Deal contracts; valued at £600m, it is to be delivered in partnership with Birmingham City Council. With 24 jobs created in just seven weeks and many hundreds more forecast to come, Birmingham Energy Savers has now opened a contact centre in the city to encourage and field enquiries from local residents, businesses and organisations.

More recently still, Leeds City Region has launched what is claimed to be the largest Green Deal scheme in the UK. Covering the combined requirements of 11 councils, this £100m initiative will be targeting 12,000 homes in Yorkshire with potential for energy-efficiency improvements and it carries the promise of up to 600 jobs created over three years.

Solutions providers are gearing up too. For example, global building products and materials group Wolseley is teaming up under its Plumb Centre brand with specialist energy-efficiency consultancy Sustain Ltd to offer a national Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation service.

Involvement is by no means the preserve of big business and major housing players. Measures have been put in place to attract smaller-scale participants, working to more modest budgets and able to mobilise fewer resources. According to the government, the Green Deal framework has been designed to enable organisations of all sizes to participate in the market, with registration and lodgement fees waived for the first two years. The door to entry is wide open.

In his latest statement, Barker commented on the groundswell of market and industry support, saying: ‘The number of businesses getting on board continues to rise steadily, underlining that the Green Deal offers fantastic new commercial opportunities. Forty-eight firms are now authorised as providers, with a further 831 registered to carry out installations and over a thousand individuals registered to offer assessments. Overall this is a really promising start.’

The temperature is only set to go one way: Up. The Department of Energy and Climate Change will publish a geographic breakdown of registrations in the June quarterly statistics and, with every Green Deal scenario specific to area and community, the onus is on housing providers and local government to understand the implications and opportunities for them.

With both public and commercial awareness building for key potential players, ignorance is already proving no defence: Not knowing is simply not good enough. All interested parties now need to have to hand the answer to the question ‘What does the Green Deal actually mean for you?’

  • Jim McClelland

    Head of sustainability at consultants Stradia and also leads on CIPFA’s Green Deal workshop programme

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