Ten thousand, ten percent or a green deal? More mangled numbers on the Mail’s conservatory tax
- 11 Apr 2012, 11:00
- Robin Webster and Ros Donald
The Daily Mail enlivened bank holiday Monday, headlining on an
apparent new "
green tax on conservatories", adding in a subhead that "home
trigger mandatory ten percent levy" to pay for energy
The Mail's story followed the
release of a consultation in January by the Department of
Communities and Local Government (DCLG). As
BusinessGreen discussed at the time, the consultation proposes
that when a household is already having works done (such as having
a patio or extension added, or a boiler replaced), there will also
be a requirement to improve the energy efficiency of the building -
by getting the loft insulated, for example.
The consultation, which finishes at the end of this month, also
proposes that householders will have the option to take out a loan
through the Government's
Green Deal scheme - and pay it back through an extra charge on
The Mail's ominous-sounding take on this is that homeowners
wanting to "build a conservatory, replace a broken boiler or
install new windows" will have to "fork out for measures such as
loft or wall insulation". The piece cites unattributed
"critics" who say the scheme is "another grab" at hard-pressed
households' cash and fear the "stealth charge" will drive
homeowners into the arms of cowboy builders.
Huffington Post and
Press Association repeated the Mail's 10 per cent figure, with
the HuffPo article going one better and claiming that the green tax
could add 10 per cent to "household bills".
Yesterday, climate skeptic columnist Christopher Booker then
followed up with a full page piece in the Mail warning homeowners
the news signals a coming "
deluge" of "green 'red' tape". He stated:
"To install a new boiler or add a
conservatory would require special planning permission, granted
only on condition that the house is fully insulated from top to
bottom - at a price of up to £10,000."
Quite a lot of numbers. We felt a bit confused.
Ten percent, ten thousand or a tax on energy
Unpicking them was not easy. First, a look at the ten per cent
figure. The Mail says:
"The work is expected to add ten per
cent to the cost of any building project in the home."
That sounds clear. DCLG's consultation is not so clear. It
"...the Government's initial preference
is to....cite 10 per cent of the value of the principle work as a
guide to a value of the works that would meet the regulatory
requirement. This provides an important safeguard and guide for
those who do not use the Green Deal [to pay off their
Translated from Governmentese, we think this means that if you
have a new patio constructed for £1,000, DCLG proposes that you
would also have to have £100-worth of energy efficiency measures
installed. Crucially, householders could borrow that through the
Green Deal, paying it back over time, and therefore incur no
The consultation also
proposes a so-called Golden Rule, under which:
"...a building owner accepting a Green
Deal should not see any increase in their energy bills - ie the
Green Deal charge should be less than or equal to the expected
savings generated by the measures, within the particular payback
period for that measure (or the package overall)."
So, the idea of the proposal is that energy bills don't go up
even when a charge is being levied because the household is saving
on energy bils. This seems somewhat what at odds with the HuffPo
claim that the scheme will
add 10 per cent to all household bills (did the HuffPo
read the consultation or just skim the Mail article?)
Now for Booker's estimation that the measures proposed by DCLG
will cost a householder intending to put in a conservatory or
install a new boiler "up to £10,000". But based on DCLG's 10 per
cent rule this would presumably mean the original works would cost
£100,000. Which seems like quite an expensive conservatory.
The list of measures that DLCG's consultation considers is: (at
lower cost) loft or cavity wall insulation, hot water cylinder
insulation, heating controls and (at higher cost) a new boiler, new
windows or solid wall insulation.
Energy Saving Trust says for a semi-detached house, roof and
loft insulation costs £100-£350 to install and should pay for
itself in two to four years; draughtproofing typically costs
£120-£220, saving around £55 per year; boiler insulation is around
£40, paying for itself in six months; and cavity wall insulation
costs around £160, with payback in around two years.
discussed on the Today programme yesterday, insulating your
house from top to bottom can cost as much as £15,000. But that is
not what DCLG is proposing. If the owners of a semi-detached house
installed all of the measures we totted up above, they'd be paying
£770 - not peanuts by any means, but still not quite
Will the Green Deal deliver savings?
Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee Tim Yeo backed
up the Mail's objection to a mandatory 'conservatory tax'. He
told the Today programme yesterday that while he
supports the "laudable" aim of the green deal, compelling people
isn't a good idea as it will reduce public enthusiasm for the Green
This seems like a reasonable point. It does rather make us
wonder however, just how it's all going to get done. In 2050, 74 per cent of
housing stock will be the draughty old places most of us live
in now. The Government faces an epic task getting all those houses
insulated - and public willingness to participate is obviously
DCLG told us it is only proposing improvement measures where
homeowners are building "substantial extensions", and most
conservatories will not require any energy efficiency measures
under the new regulations. It says reports suggesting otherwise are
"simply incorrect". It adds that it's still consulting on
proposals for homeowners to undertake improvements, such as
loft or cavity wall insulation, when replacing their boiler or
windows. A DCLG spokesperson says:
"The Government is listening to
consumer concerns on this matter and is looking to develop this
policy further with industry bodies and consumer groups before
issuing its response."
The Mail has
frequently taken issue with DECC calculations that homeowners
will save money through energy efficiency measures. But if
compulsory measures aren't a good idea, and mustering public
enthusiasm is, then the Mail's repeated attacks on any and all
green policies (energy saving measures included) seem to be doing a
pretty fair job of making this a self-fulfilling prophesy.