The government has confirmed that 38,000 Green Deal assessments have been carried out since the launch of the scheme, but only 245 people have signed up. Or is that four people?
As someone who keenly follows almost any energy-related news (yes, I really am that interesting), there has been a recent, recurring story that’s been getting on my nerves.
It’s not the latest attack on renewables, shale gas, nuclear or whichever type of energy generation seems to be getting a kicking this week. Nor is it the desperate attempt by the regulator Ofgem to persuade us its reforms really will transform the retail energy market.
Instead it is the occasional, but steady, stream of stories telling us that only one or two or four or maybe as many as 100 people have taken out a Green Deal loan.
Why so mysterious?
Why do these stories irritate me? Well, being an energy geek, I want much more information. Who are these people who have taken out a Green Deal loan? Which provider did they take it out with? And what interest rate were they offered?
Let’s remind ourselves why the Green Deal matters. This is the government’s flagship energy efficiency policy. At a time of rising energy prices, when no government money is available to help with bill hikes, the government has thrown most of their eggs into the Green Deal basket to solve the problem of Britain’s badly insulated homes.
The Green Deal is meant to be a game-changer. While the government hates referring to it as a loan, it allows you to pay upfront and give your home an energy efficiency retrofit. You then pay off the costs via your electricity bill.
So those of us who closely followed its development – and pressed the government to improve the idea – have been waiting to see if it would succeed since its launch at the beginning of 2013.
38,000 assessments, 245 (or four) sign ups
Which brings us to the crunch point – yesterday’s publication of how the Green Deal has gone down with the public over its first six months. While ministers have tried to suggest that the number of people signing up is encouraging, the figures look worryingly low to us.
According to the government, 245 households want to take out Green Deal finance. But even this figure is stretching it. In fact, only four people have signed on the dotted line – while the rest have confirmed that they ‘wish to proceed’. This is out of a total of over 38,000 assessments.
Of course, it is early days for the Green Deal. The government believes that many people get an assessment and then pay for improvements through other means (perhaps with savings, or by taking out a traditional loan). And they also argue that while people have been able to get assessments for months, the finance is only just becoming available.
Hard to compare Green Deal deals
This brings me to my final point. The fact is that anyone who gets a Green Deal assessment should be able to shop around to find the best deal for them. People need to have information about the range of Green Deal finance options on offer – so they can see who will give them the best interest rate.
Yet this information is sadly lacking from yesterday’s announcement. Which? is still trying to find out which companies are offering Green Deal finance and what their terms and conditions are. Without this information it will be impossible for people to decide whether the Green Deal will be good value for them.
Unless people can see the benefits of the Green Deal, take up is likely to remain low.