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What has happened to commercial Green Deal?

I know Ed Davey said earlier this month that he had never expected Commercial Green Deal to ‘fly out the door’, but right now it looks as if its launch date is geared to coincide with the next flypast of Gloucestershire Old Spots. Given the various noises coming out of DECC, it is hard to escape the notion that CGD is in danger of becoming a political football.

Green Ed (a LibDem) seems keen to see CGD get up and running, but his junior minister Greg Barker (a Tory) seems uninterested to the point of dropping off. Insiders at DECC say he won’t hear anything about promoting CGD and is only interested in domestic GD – which is all that the Daily Mail is likely to be interested in.

Normally a junior minister would need to defer to his boss if he wanted his political career to progress, but the Coalition has changed that to some extent, and the change will become ever more apparent the closer we come to the next election. Ed Davey is the boss, but from the weaker Coalition partner. Greg Barker is his subordinate, but with his own power base within the stronger Coalition partner. In the circumstances it’s unlikely that Barker’s boss can force him to take an interest in CGD if he doesn’t want to – and all the signs are that he doesn’t. He has already refused to act on what is apparently an excellent report on CGD, which was presented to him several months ago by a task group, and he has also refused to publish the report so that others can act on what are apparently some really good ideas in it.

This is all the more worrying because next year is pre-election year, with the parties getting ready to square up to each other at the polls in 2015, so anything not sorted this year could fall victim to increasing hostility between the Coalition partners in 2014.

OK, we couldn’t have a major commercial launch right now, because there are only five commercial assessors qualified as GDAs, but more will be coming off the subsidised training courses by the end of July – – though Asset Skills has pointedly not said how many places it is allocating. Once more qualified assessors are in place, there is no reason why we can’t start rolling out CGD – provided we don’t find it being blocked by the politicians.

From speaking to businesses about GD I know that there is interest out there – but things move fast in business, and companies can’t wait forever. One owner of a small but fast expanding business recently told me: ‘I’m definitely interested – if it comes within the next three to four months’. After that, he will be forced to go ahead with building improvements without GD.

As things stand, the scheme might just be able to meet that deadline, but we now need to see the politicians and financiers getting behind the commercial scheme – and I don’t see that at the moment. Talking to industry figures, as I have been recently, always produces the same response: ‘Not yet’. ‘So when do you think?’ I ask. The question just produces head shaking.

But if not this year, then the political climate is likely to be even less favourable for CGD next year. And after the election – who knows? Anything could happen – depending on who gets in, and what they decide to do with Green Deal in general.

So it looks as if once again it is up to assessors to drive the energy efficiency industry forward. If commercial GDAs find clients for the scheme, I can’t see the financiers and installers turning the business down. Come August, when we should have a lot more commercial GDAs, there’s no reason why we can’t get the Commercial Green Deal going – whether Greg Barker likes it or not.

Written by Terry Wardle, Editor of Energy Assessor Magazine

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