Myths versus facts: the real deal on the Green Deal
- 16 May 2012, 15:30
- Ros Donald
It's probably fair to say most people's understanding of the UK
government's flagship energy efficiency policy, the Green Deal, is
hazy at best - with a fair few myths popping up in the press to
confuse the sketchy picture the government's given of the plan so
But now, Building Magazine has
revealed that the government is consulting
with critics to see how the plan to help householders improve
their homes' energy efficiency could be improved following concerns
about how many people will actually sign up to the scheme, and
whether it will help those who need it most.
While there appear to be some real concerns with the plans,
other objections have obviously been invented in the pub and leaked
to the papers. Here's our assessment of what are the 'probably not
real' objections to the scheme, and the 'real deal' questions that
PROBABLY NOT REAL:
It'll be compulsory.
A few weeks ago the Daily Mail reported the government was
consulting on what it called a '
conservatory tax', under which anyone wishing to improve their
home must first agree to pay for insulation.
In reality, it's
already compulsory to install energy efficiency measures when you
build a large structure like an extension which requires planning
plan the Mail reported on, which is still under consultation,
suggests homeowners should be required to install "proportionate"
efficiency measure - for which they could cut out upfront cost by
borrowing under the Green Deal - of around 10 per cent of the cost
of the original work.
THE REAL DEAL:
Forecasts for voluntary Green Deal take-up don't look
As the scheme is voluntary, the government's key problem in
introducing the Green Deal is how to get people to buy in.
Making it compulsory to fit insulation in certain instances -
such as when people want to build conservatories that could
increase their homes' carbon footprint - would at least make
sure there is some level of takeup.
Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, MP Tim Yeo,
said any compulsion for people to insulate their homes would
reduce public enthusiasm for the scheme. But, if other
commentators are right, the biggest challenge is going to be
creating that enthusiasm in the first place.
PROBABLY NOT REAL:
"I'll have to pay £10,000 for new efficiency measures if I want to
change my boiler."
On the back of the 'conservatory tax' news, columnist
claimed that consumers would be forced to pay up to £10,000 to
install efficiency measures when doing other work on their home.
It's not totally clear where this came from, but we think Booker
mixed up a compulsory payment with the maximum amount you can
borrow, which is 10k.
As the consulation paper suggests that homeowners should spend
10 per cent of the cost of improvements on energy efficiency
measures, Booker's calculation means you'd have to be spending
£100,000 on home improvement; less a conservatory and more a new
extension for Kew Gardens.
THE REAL DEAL:
The Green Deal might not do much for fuel poverty.
There's controversy over whether
the scheme will help the fuel poor - a key target group. As the BBC's environment
analyst, Roger Harrabin, notes, those who can't install
efficiency measures without extra financial help will receive
subsidised insulation under a scheme called ECO.
But the government has decided to prioritise funding more
expensive solid wall insulation over cheaper loft or cavity wall
insulation, because, it argues, most homes are already insulated
under previous schemes.
say this will mean the government spending much more on insulation
than it needs to - with those who apply for solid wall insulation
doing comparatively better off. According to Harrabin, they also
disagree with the government's reasoning - pointing out that 40 per
cent of the UK's homes currently don't have loft or cavity wall
PROBABLY NOT REAL:
The 'great green myth'
According to the Daily Mail's article
Great green myth, or how an eco home can end up costing you
thousands, those who sign up to the Green Deal could end up
"thousands of pounds out of pocket".
Citing "studies", the Mail said that instead of saving
households money on their energy bills, consumers could end up
paying much more due to faults in calculations used to work out
what each house needs to do to increase its efficiency, and how
long these measures should take to pay for themselves.
But as we noted at
the time, the article created the gloomiest picture possible on
pilot Green Deal schemes' returns by cherry-picking the worst
numbers from the reports it quotes, and ignoring the fact that many
of the pilot households deliberately chose more expensive
THE REAL DEAL:
Green Deal calculations need improving
But even if the Mail has overblown it, there might be a real
problem at the core of this issue. Researchers and businesses that
have studied Green Deal pilots say the government may have to go back to the drawing
board if it's going to achieve the so-called golden rule -
where the energy you save offsets the money you've spent on
Results of pilots show the government needs to improve the
calculation it uses to estimate homes' actual energy use and the
amount they can expect to save when they install efficiency
measures. There also has to be a better awareness of how people
behave when they have efficiency measures installed, the
So in summary, although a lot of strange arguments have been flung
around on this issue, there are convincing difficulties the
government's going to have to sort out if it wants the Green Deal
to be a good deal, rather than no deal at all.
The reason the Green Deal is a central part of the government's
decarbonisation strategy is that buildings are responsible for more
than 40 per cent of UK emissions. The plan is also supposed to be
core to ensuring UK consumers' energy bills don't skyrocket as
fossil fuel prices become more volatile - which they're projected
There's a danger people won't sign up to the deal because
they're afraid of the cost, of letting energy companies undertake
major works on their house, or because they just don't know about
it. We think that's the real debate that should be going on at the
moment. So even though the
'conservatory tax' perhaps wasn't the best contribution to a
fact-based energy debate, it's probably still good that the
government is going to re-examine its policy plans to make sure
they actually get houses insulated and save people money.
UPDATE 16/05/2012 4.53pm: We corrected the second paragraph to
note that Building Magazine broke the story.