Which? has already challenged the government on the Green Deal to make sure that it offers a good deal for consumers. In this guest post from Dr Doug Parr, find out why Greenpeace UK also has cause for concern.
I know from being involved in energy issues for years that although efficient energy use in our homes is important, talking about it is also likely to make people’s eyes glaze over. This is sad.
It’s one of the few things that can radically bring down bills. And when it’s done right, it cuts carbon emissions, reduces our imports of fossil fuels and creates local employment.
Nearly half of UK energy use is in buildings – it should be a high priority, because all that energy has to be paid for, by households or businesses.
Contrary to the impressions from some media coverage, our backing for onshore wind added less than £5 to the average bill last year, while the increase in the wholesale cost of gas added an extra £100 in just 12 months. The only immediate way to address the costs of volatile fossil fuel prices is to reduce energy use; and the key to this is more efficient buildings.
That’s why we think it’s important the government gets its energy efficiency policies right, so we can make our homes warm and bills affordable.
Is the Green Deal really a good deal?
The idea behind the Green Deal is fine. It is good that an occupier can borrow all the money needed to make a building energy efficient and pay it back from the reduction in energy bills.
It’s also good that the repayments and investment stay with the house. People shouldn’t be put off making changes because they know someone else will benefit from them when the property is sold.
But despite the benefits of home efficiency, the Green Deal looks unlikely to help increase the uptake of efficiency measures. It may even have the opposite effect – as the marketplace for residential energy-saving measures could even collapse once it is introduced. Cavity wall insulation is forecast to drop by two-thirds and loft insulation by 90%. Notably the government has not stated a level of ambition for its new scheme.
What can be done to make the Green Deal better?
First, real incentives are needed to keep these markets moving. Government funding should be used, perhaps by a reduction in council tax or stamp duty.
Second, the UK has a particular problem with hard-to-treat homes which often have solid walls and no cavity that can be easily insulated. Dealing with these homes is expensive. We’d like to see the government bring forward a proper development plan for treating these kind of houses across the UK, with R&D, pilot programmes and innovation focusing initially on the fuel-poor households for the roll-out, and use this experience to bring down the costs.
It would also help if Green Deal finance could be kept at low interest rates. These changes will require initial government investment (and times are tough).
Greenpeace, along with more than 140 MPs and nearly 100 organisations like Asda and Barnardos, is supporting the Energy Bill Revolution campaign which calls on the government to use the money it gets from carbon taxes to help make homes super-energy efficient.
Let’s strike a contract between the government, taxpayers and bill payers to benefit the environment and bring our bills down. Polling says people will back a green transition but the government must take the lead and do its bit.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist and Policy Director at Greenpeace UK – all opinions expressed here are their own, not necessarily those of Which?