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Green Deal advice revisited

Posted by Linn Rafferty on 13 February 2012 at 9:03 pm

A little over a year ago, I wrote Green Deal - will the advice be good enough? for YouGen. Time moves on, and slowly we are seeing more detail about Green Deal, including how energy advice will be provided. The Green Deal will be launched in less than 9 months (October 2012), and this article provides a summary of the advice provision currently proposed.

Who will provide the advice?

Advice in Green Deal will be provided by qualified, certified Green Deal Advisors (GDAs), who will deliver advice during a home visit. There will also be a telephone advice line, giving basic advice and information about the scheme, and how to get a visit from a GDA.

The GDA will provide their customer with a Green Deal Advice Report, which the customer may then take to a Green Deal Provider of their own choice. Without this visit and report, customers will not be able to take advantage of Green Deal installations and Green Deal finance.

Every advisor will have to take a mandatory qualification before they may work as a GDA.

There will be a need to train and qualify a number of GDAs before the scheme begins in October of this year, and uncertainty about how GDAs will be paid could result in fewer candidates registering for the qualification. The Green Deal Advisors Association states that DECC officials are now investigating the best way of adding a requirement into the scheme, to ensure that the Green Deal Advisor receives payment for their work.

Energy assessment

It’s been accepted that the first step in giving advice, on either behavioural changes or energy efficiency measures, is to carry out a thorough energy assessment of the property. For homes, this means an inspection by a qualified Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA), as is required when a home is sold or let, to produce an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) (I have previously blogged about how to read a home’s EPC, here and here). To be able to do this, every domestic GDA will also need to register as a DEA. If a valid EPC exists for the home, the GDA will be able to use it (having first checked its accuracy) and if none exists, she will produce one. 

In order to improve the quality and usefulness of EPCs, all current DEAs are now required to take a further qualification. Those that do not pass will not be allowed to provide EPCs after April of this year. This coincides with the new-style EPC (as recommended by Consumer Focus and discussed in an earlier blog) replacing the current version. 

Personalising the advice

The EPC assessment ignores how the current occupier uses the home, since the new occupier is unlikely to use it in exactly the same way. However, in order to give advice that reflects the current occupier’s needs, the assessment must consider how the occupier uses their home. So although the DEA’s normal inspection is a great starting point, more is needed to make the advice fit the needs of the current occupier.

These additions, called an Occupancy Assessment, have been specified following the advice of a team of energy advice experts. When it’s finished, provision for this extra assessment will be added to the software that’s currently used to produce EPCs, but only for Green Deal. It will not be used for EPCs, which will continue to be based only on the home, not how its occupiers use it. The final specification is not available, but essentially, it will capture how the current occupier’s use of their home differs from the assumptions made in the EPC assessment; for example, the hours of heating, or whether parts of the home are not heated. By identifying these differences, the GDA is able to explain to their customer whether the standard savings estimates will apply to them, or if they might expect to save more or less than the predictions.

People skills

It’s not just about using software, though.  GDAs will also need to be skilled in talking to customers to establish their wishes and needs, so that the advice can be tailored to them.  To achieve this, all GDAs will need to take a vocational qualification which tests their ability to give advice, as well as their knowledge of the advice to give.  Those keen to know what this qualification covers can follow the link to read the National Occupational Standards for green deal advice.

What will the advice cover?

Advice will be available for all the energy efficiency measures that Green Deal finance is available for.  It’s currently envisaged that this means all those listed in the measures specification, called PAS2030, although it’s possible that others may be added.  This document (produced by BSi and available to purchase from them) sets out the standards installers must follow when installing them.  The measures include: 

Heating:

Condensing Boilers: Natural Gas-fired, Liquefied Petroleum Gasfired and Oil-fired

Heating Controls, Under-floor Heating, Flue-gas Recovery Devices, Gas-fired Warm-air Heating Systems, Electric Storage Heaters, Heating System Insulation (pipes and cylinders), Ground and Air Source Heat Pumps, Solar Thermal, Biomass Boilers, Micro CHP

Building Fabric Insulation:

Cavity Wall Insulation, Loft Insulation, Pitched Roof Insulation, Flat Roof Insulation, Internal Wall Insulation, External Wall Insulation, Hybrid Wall Insulation, Floor Insulation.

Other:

Draught Proofing, Energy Efficient Glazing and Doors, Lighting Fittings, Lighting Controls (Not for domestic), Solar PV, Micro and Small Scale Wind Turbine Systems

About the author: @linniR is a consultant, a freelance writer and a Domestic Energy Assessor accredited with the NHER scheme, and she enjoys all three.  She tweets regularly on issues relating to energy efficiency and renewables and provides consultancy, especially in relation to training needs.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

5 comments - read them below or add one

Linn Rafferty

Linn Rafferty from JTec Energy PerformanceComment left on: 28 June 2012 at 6:17 pm

hello Clive, that's an interesting question.  Thanks for recognising that the assessors (Green Deal Advisors) should be paid for their work - obvious really, but not always generally accepted.

If you decide to make a charge to your clients, it might need to be more than your clients can afford, so you'll want to find an alternative source of funding if you can.

DECC say that they believe that a number of different models will apply and they are not limiting this, other than requiring Advisors employed by a Provider to make this absolutely clear to their customer before they visit.  Providers will also need to get the permission of the customer before their Advisor will be allowed to promote their employer's offerings to them.  At least this means that the customer will be able to see that Providers who offer free assessments are not offering the independent service that you can provide.

I don't know the answer, but you might like to take a look at this DECC webpage http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/tackling/green_deal/gd_industry/gd_sme/gd_sme.aspx

It's intended  for small to medium enterprises, but perhaps some of the suggestions there may be helpful in your situation.

One other suggestion could be to participate in the DECC sponsored road shows currently taking place, and ask the question there.

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CliveM

CliveMComment left on: 28 June 2012 at 1:44 pm

Hi,

I work for a charity who currently provides free environmental assessments (energy, water and waste) for homes or community organisations such as schools, churches etc. We are studying GD and believe we can adapt the energy part of our process and employ or contract trained GD assessors.

We have to pay the assessors, but need income to do so. Where will this come from? We cannot be a GD provider who can e.g. add a mark up to the cost of installing measures and it seems likely that most GD service companies will provide free assessments and attract far more enquiries. Our big selling point is that we are a charity and entirely independent, but need to make a charge even if no GD Plan results from the assessment. How can we develop a viable business model?

Thanks, Clive

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NorthGlosEPC

NorthGlosEPCComment left on: 21 February 2012 at 1:13 pm

Hello again Linn,

Thank you very much for the links provided. My quest to update my DEA qualification just became a little more clear. I dare say my accreditation scheme had all this but sometimes finding what you want on a large website is not always as easy as it might be. When someone obviously knowledgable helpful as yourself turns up life becomes easier. Thank you.

I also read the other information from the GDA links. That was also very interesting. It seems to me that safeguards to prevent both miss-selling and a reasonable GDA income are far from secure. I don't think I'll be going for the GDA qualification until I know a lot more and see those safeguards in place.

The GDAA response looks very well intentioned but I'm tempted to suspect was compiled by someone (or a committee) with little real world experience of just what happens in situations like this. I would have gone much further in suggesting a more approriate approach having seen first hand what has already happened in the loft and cavity wall industry.

I especially smiled at the bit where it said:

"GDPs will be aware of this risk (no sale after commissioning a GDA report) and to alleviate it they may decide to require GDAs to carry out assessments unpaid, and only reward them financially where their advice results in a sale for the GPD.
The obvious risk of this payment model would be that GDAs who did not miss-sell would be less well paid than those who did. This payment model carries significant risk of miss-selling, and if it is allowed, any GDP using it should be subject to additional monitoring to confirm that miss-selling does not occur".

Well, I can guarrentee now that if this payment model is used miss-selling won't be a risk it will be a foregone conclusion, and credibility in the eyes of the public will never be established. The very statement from the GDAA impiles the GDA will have a sales role rather than an advisors role. Thus to me suggesting their objective as much to make the sale as it is to provide the householder with honest impartial advice and benefits.

No amount of monitoring will prevent miss-selling unless the independance of the GDA can be facilitated and guarenteed. Even if the GDP commissions totally independant sole trader GDA's there is a significant risk that future business for those GDA's will be dependant on percentage of eventual GDP sales. They'll only use the GDA's who's reports result in sales, so a "tied" GDA will definately end up very much a sales person for the GDP.

I can see it now, the next phase of telephone cold calling will be coming from GDP's. GDA's will be sent off to "sell" Green Deal measures, no credibility with the public and pitifully low earnings for the GDA. The Loft and Cavity wall regime all over again.

There is no easy answer to this but one idea came to mind.

The GDA report could be commissioned by either a householder or a GDP, perhaps after completion of a brief questionaire to establish initial suitability. The GDA report fee would initially be paid  by a central body (at a recognised fixed tariff). Perhaps by using the funds the Government is going to save by no longer subsidising loft and cavity wall insulation. Upon completion of the Green Deal measure installation this central body charges the GDP. This charge could be slightly higher to allow for the GDA reports that won't actually result in any sale.

This or something like it is the only way I can see any guarentee of objectivity, sure fire prevention of miss-selling and the establishment of scheme credibility with the public whilst allowing the GDA to actually earn a fair living.

I think until something equally plausible in in place any would be GDA might as well go work in a supermarket, the minimum wage will pay better on an hourly basis, and they won't have to fork out for training and qualifications.

I really hope whoever is finalising all these Green Deal operational issues gets it right. If they don't a scheme which had great potential will fall flat.

 

 

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Linn Rafferty

Linn Rafferty from JTec Energy PerformanceComment left on: 21 February 2012 at 9:02 am

hello NGDEA

The QCF unit, which defines the DEA updating, can be read here http://register.ofqual.gov.uk/Unit/Details/A_503_6692

You can see that it is much wider than just the new RdSAP and EPC features. In fact it covers a lot of detail that some DEAs were already aware of, but apparently some were not.

Also, do read the candidate handbook from your chosen exam body. It should give you a breakdown of the subject areas covered by the exam.  If you are with ABBE, their handbook can be found at http://www.abbeqa.co.uk/images/awards/86/ABBE%20Level%203%20Award%20in%20DEAPD%20qualification%20handbook%20-%20Release%20issue%20Dec%202011.pdf

I understand that DECC received quite a few consultation responses suggesting how important it will be for consumers to be able to distinguish between an independent GDA, and one with ties to a particular supplier.  I hope they listen to those calls. In that respect, my own response to the consultation coincided with the GDAA's response, which is at http://www.gdaa.org.uk/consult

Thanks for commenting on my blog. Oh, and good luck with the exam!

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NorthGlosEPC

NorthGlosEPCComment left on: 20 February 2012 at 10:06 pm

Linn,

Very interesting and informative.

I'm a DEA, and I'm currently going through the extra info' with a view to "up qualifying" in order to continue after April. It all seems reasonable and stratightforward so I'm not expecting any problems.

One question you might help me with while I'm "up studying" is will the exam just cover the new stuff or will it be a new exam potentially including everything "DEA"? That is including elements already qualified in?

I'm not over concerned but it would help me ensure I'm ready. I'd hate to fail on factors I rarely if ever come across in the area I operate in and therefore failed to "bone up" on.

Another issue I'd like to comment on concerns the GDA qualification. I'm in two minds about going for this qualification, mostly because I can see all kinds of Green deal issues which might seriously effect just how successful it's going to be.

But putting those "Green deal success issues" aside for now I would first like to know how a GDA operates professionally, the part of your blog related to how they are paid.

If GDA's end up actually being employed or contracted to Green deal providers I can see it going the way of Loft insulation and Cavity wall surveyors. These "surveyors" are in essence commission only sales people. Lots of surveys mostly the result of cold phone calls but no pay unless a provider sale is actually made. With the housing market as it is, and with Energy assessment work a little thiner on the ground than prefered, I tried this for a while. It soon became clear to me that the regime was such that getting a sale came a lot higher on the priority list than doing what was best for the customer.  I was doing this for only a very short while.

If the role of a GDA goes this way I can see an immediate conflict of interest. Becoming a GDA will not be a good carreer move and perhaps more importantly in the eyes of the public credibility will not be established, thus compromising the whole green deal initiative.

I think a GDA will have to be completely independant and objective. In the same way a DEA already is (as this one is anyway). GDA advice must be geared towards benefiting the client rather than to achieve sales for the provider. Anything less and it won't work. This means a GDA report must be commissioned and fairly paid for by either the client or the provider with no strings attached. This to my mind is the only way it will work. Without this approach the initiative won't be perceived as credible by the public and the Green deal won't succeed.

I'd be interested in your view.

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