How can we stop the Green Deal being the preserve of a few big companies?
Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 September 2011 at 9:13 am
Energy minister Greg Barker released an article yesterday outlining how the coalition is meeting its pledge to be the greenest goverment ever.
It started well: "Being green and transforming our economy away from dependence on expensive fossil fuels to one powered by low carbon energy is no 'tree huggers' charter," he said.
"It’s an essential prerequisite of a modern and successful twenty-first century globally competitive economy.
"It’s about warmer homes, quieter and cleaner cars, greater economic and energy security, as well as jobs and business opportunities created by the low-carbon transition."
That all sounds lovely. But, (why does there always have to be a but - I really do want to be saying positive things about government policy) when he got on to the Green Deal, I got worried. He describes it as "Britain's biggest home improvement programme since the second world war.
"Its purpose is simple: to stamp out for good the huge energy wastage that’s afflicting Britain’s homes and businesses. Our buildings are often old and inefficient in how they are heated, which means a massive upgrade is needed."
So far, so good.
Then he goes on to say that the Green Deal will establish a framework to enable well-known high street names - the likes of B&Q and M&S - to offer consumers energy efficiency improvements and recoup payments through a charge in installments on the energy bill.
Alarm bells started to ring. I've got no problem with B&Q and M&S per se, or with them offering this programme. But I do have visions of it being another stitch up where a small number of national companies, subsidised by government, corners the market delivering a lowest common denominator service - piling them high and selling them cheap.
This is what happened with CERT funding in the loft and cavity wall market. As a result, if you want something different: say sheeps wool, newspaper or polystyrene beads for insulation most of the main companies don't offer it, it's hugely more expensive, and there's not a skilled workforce of local small businesses who can step into the gap, because there's not enough of a market left for them to bother.
Making old, leaky houses energy efficient isn't a pile it high, sell it cheap type job. It's specialist and each building - and it's residents, users, owners - are different. They need a tailored service. They are more likely to go ahead when they are getting some other work done on their home. They are more likely to go ahead if it's done by someone they trust.
That's why I believe that it is vital that the Green Deal does not exclude small and medium sized companies. It should embrace them and I call on the government to encourage and support those business in getting the necessary skills to offer excellent advice, and deliver good quality work. Most of all, I call on them to make sure that householders can use their trusted, local tradespeople to do their Green Deal work. We don't want another lowest common denominator programme.
The question is, how do we get this message across loud and clear to Greg Barker?
Photo by siftnz
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