Is the Government offering a Green Deal or a bum deal?
Today sees the launch of one of the Government’s latest bright ideas, the NEST compulsory pension, and next Monday another scheme has its debut. But this one is not about investing in your future, this is about the planet, people.
The Green Deal’s purpose is to allow property owners to environmentally improve their properties without having to pay out any moolah upfront. Instead, the cost will be added to energy bills (because they aren’t already a huge cost for homeowners) and paid off over a number of years. Interestingly, the Green Deal charge will attach to the property, rather than the property owner, meaning that future purchasers will also be buying the responsibility to pay off the cost of these green home improvements.
However, crucial to the Government’s plan to get people on the never never is having partner retailers who are willing to participate in the scheme. The original briefing documents mentioned B&Q by name, and DIY stores and supermarkets are considered essential to the scheme given their trust and reach among the UK population.
But so far, no major retailer has committed to join the scheme at launch, with several likely suspects telling the Guardian they would "wait and see" how the scheme worked out before making a final decision. Specifically, B&Q, is still "finalising its position", Tesco says it already offers a range of energy efficiency options independently of the "green deal" and Marks & Spencer said it was waiting for more details. Undaunted, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said more companies were expected to sign up within the next few months.
From Monday, property owners can register to have a clipboarded inspector advise them on which energy efficiency measures they could have, ranging from loft insulation to double glazing, and costing from an average £200 to £7,000. However, the work won’t start until after 28 January next year, which gives time for Green Deal loans to be approved, but also gives the Government time to find some retail/service partners to actually implement the works.
DECC want a whole range of different companies to get involved, going from big retail names down to one-man-band builders. The Government spin doctors see this as a way to create jobs while cutting emissions and helping people lower their energy bills. However, our cautious friends over at Which! are worried in case conscientious Green Dealers end up being taken for a ride by some less-than-conscientious workmen. Executive director Richard Lloyd, told the Guardian: "We will be watching closely to see if people get ripped off. Any poor practice must be stamped out as quickly as possible."
But there are other concerns too. One of the fundamental principles of the Green Deal and the Government’s environmental approach is that green measures should also be golden, that is, the amount spent on energy efficient measures should always be exceeded by cash savings over time. The Green Alliance thinktank has calculated that if loans are made at commercial rates of interest, Green Dealers may have to wait for many years to see a return on their green investment, if at all. Poverty campaigners are also voicing concerns that the scheme will only benefit middle classes, as the poorer and more vulnerable people may be denied loans and could be put off by the thought of having to find more cash to pay their energy bills.
So will you be rushing out to sign up?