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Green Deal is right Idea, wrong target

CEO of energy specialists Sustain says the government is right about the Green Deal – but off target when it comes to who needs incentivising

The Government is spending £125Million on incentives for householders who take up the Green Deal, but according to one sustainability expert, it’s the advisers, not the householders, who need incentivising.

“In a couple of months’ time, householders will be able to get as much as £1000 off the cost of improvements such as boilers, loft insulation, solid wall insulation and replacement windows” said Tobias Parker, CEO of Sustain, one of the UK’s leading sustainability companies. “It’s a first-come, first-served offer, clearly because, as a flagship policy, the Government wants as many householders as possible to take up the Green Deal in the shortest possible time, so they can claim it a huge success. This is short term pump-priming, and it doesn’t work.”

“But if the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) had thought this through properly, they’d realise that the purchasing decisions of homeowners are more complicated than a voucher scheme would suggest. They are influenced by the advisers, who in many cases will also be the installer and if there are not enough reasons for the adviser to recommend a Green Deal plan where appropriate, then it won’t be recommended and the uptake levels will be low.If a home owner wants a new boiler, for example, and has heard something about the Green Deal, it is likely they will turn to the adviser or installer for more information.”

“We learnt this through the introduction of condensing boilers – at first installers would dissuade homeowners, who had discount vouchers, from installing condensing boiler, as it was a new technology and required a different practice. But once installers became incentivised, they would actively push the technology and the uptake levels rose dramatically.”

“It’s a relatively long process that the homeowner and adviser have to go through to get the Green Deal Plan working, and it would be all too easy for the installer to go for a quick cash sale and not make the most of all the measures available.” explained Tobias. “DECC needs to look carefully at what is going to make the adviser advocate Green Deal Plans.”

“Following the Solar Panel subsidised feed-in tariff debacle”, said Tobias, “DECC cannot afford to make another mess of its Green Energy policy. So, faced with the prospect of a low take-up of the deal, it has decided to kick-start the programme with financial incentives for the home owner”.

“DECC needs to value the influence of the supply chain – they want Green Deal to be demand-led, but a one-off simple cash incentive to the homeowner is not the silver bullet they need,” said Tobias. “We’ve learned in the past few weeks that few, if any, of the major retailers have taken up the scheme. B&Q, John Lewis Partnership and M&S have all said they’ll wait and see how things pan out. If they don’t think the Green Deal is robust enough, then why should the home owner? Who is going to explain to them the advantages of it? The deal is, on the whole, a good one, but without installers and advisers to explain it properly, the take-up is likely to be poor.”

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