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Green Deal – They wouldn’t would they ?

I may win this month’s doom and gloom award for saying so, but I am concerned at how things are going to turn out over commercial Green Deal, given that there looks set to be a considerable shortfall in numbers of qualified GDNDEAs.

I don’t know whether it’s DECC or the sector skills council Asset Skills which is responsible for this situation, but someone has made a real mess of things. It was DECC which in 2012 put up £1 million to subsidise the training of 1,000 ‘Go Early’ GDAs, with Asset Skills tasked to get them through by the end of the year. It was obvious by early December last year that a large number of the DEAs signed up by Asset Skills for the subsidised (they paid 30% of the fee) GDA training, were not to make it for the end of December deadline, and West Country assessors’ group DCHI pleaded for the deadline to be extended, at least to the end of January, and preferably to the end of March.

How many DEAs were in training then has not been revealed, but probably about 800. If the deadline had been extended, we might have got all 800 qualified by the end of March. But it wasn’t extended, and as of the end of March Asset Skills had only got around 600 qualified, meaning as many as 25% probably couldn’t meet the deadline and didn’t qualify, with the result that Asset Skills was left scratching around in April trying to put together another 200 DEAs, to replace those which were lost through what seems to me a short-sighted and frankly pretty dumb decision in December. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they now decided to make the whole thing even less attractive by introducing tough terms requiring candidates to pay in full (£1200) up front, and lose the subsidy if they don’t qualify by the end of July. Smart move. You’ve already put a lot of DEAs off the whole thing, so introduce swingeing terms and put the rest off.

Even worse, they have applied this to the main cohort of commercial assessors, who have to pay £1800 up front and risk losing £1260 if they don’t qualify by the end of July. How has this gone down? ‘Lead balloon’ is a phrase that springs to mind. The number being targeted was not revealed, but I suspect it was 200, and as a result of asking assessors to put up nearly £2,000 and risk losing it the number actually recruited is probably about 80. Asset Skills is now talking about making up the numbers by recruiting ‘new entrants’, who will need to be trained as NDEAs and GDAs, though how they plan to recruit them is far from clear.

All this is certainly not the fault of assessors, but sadly that doesn’t mean we won’t be on the receiving end as a result. Those of us who are commercial energy assessors and have been around in this business for a while will know that we have been here before. I became an assessor back in 2008, secure in the knowledge that the 2007 regs specified that no-one could do my job unless they spent time and money obtaining the qualification I had. But businesses lobbied government, claiming EPC prices would be high because there was a shortage of assessors. And what happened? In 2009? Government introduced regs allowing unqualified ‘data gatherers’. What DCLG meant was that Level 3 assessors could assist on Level 4 or Level 5 jobs if supervised – but it didn’t say that for another year. During that year numerous outfits had set up providing useless, inaccurate EPCs provided by completely unqualified people, at fees no assessor could match. As a result fees fell off a cliff in 2009 and haven’t recovered yet.

Now, thanks to bad decision making over subsidised training, it looks as if there is going to be a big shortfall in commercial assessors qualified as GDAs. Does that mean that next year we might see DCLG allowing unqualified GDAs into the market? If so, it would make a joke of the qualifications DECC is subsidising and many of us are working hard to achieve. And it would undoubtedly force fees down to totally uneconomic levels, as it did in 2009. I really hope that won’t happen, but as I said, we’ve been here before. Would DCLG really do it to us all over again? They wouldn’t – would they?

Written by Terry Wardle, Editor of Energy Assessor Magazine

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