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SMEs can participate in the Green Deal on their own terms with launch of new organisation

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 2 July 2012 at 8:53 am

What's in it for SMEs? is a regular lament about the Green Deal. Businesses are concerned that they will be given small pickings around the edges, and their margins will be squeezed to breaking point, and quality will fly out the window.

Well all this doom mongering may not come to pass, as a group of visionaries has been working behind the scenes on a way in which SMEs can benefit from the green deal and stay in control of their destiny.

A new organisation that intends to enable SMEs to take a significant slice of the green deal work is announced to day. The Green Deal Conduit, which will be owned by its members, is the brainchild of Russell Smith of Parity Projects.

"A strong presence for SMEs in the energy-focused refurbishment market is desirable for two key reasons," he says. "Firstly homeowners will want more than just a choice of the high street brands. There are excellent, locally-focused advisers and contractors that will be more preferred and trusted by some of the market.

"Secondly, SMEs need to protect their existing refurbishment market, which may be eaten into if some of their usual work can be funded by others.  If there is no deliberate effort by SMEs to access the green deal. They and homeowners will both lose out."

Russell Smith has been working with a wide range of trade bodies, including the Federation of Master Builders, RIBA, RICS, the FSB and various representatives of the renewable energy sector (including us at YouGen), to scope out the demand for such a vehicle to be formed. More than 200 businesses have attended workshops and contributed to thinking about how all the different trades could work together to deliver high quality refurbishment work.

Having mapped out a feasible business model, the Green Deal Conduit is now keen to hear from  more SMEs that are interested in working with it. Renewable energy professionals, architects, energy assessors, surveyors, builders, plumbers, electricians and community energy groups are all invited to get in touch via its temporary website

It is also looking for financial support to get going. "We have spoken with DECC," says Russell Smith, "and they are excited by the prospects of the model. But it will need genuine government support to take it to the next level. It ticks so many boxes, such as building a local economy, creating a market for apprentices and providing a mechanism for community groups to drive change in their areas while minimising carbon dioxide emissions. We hope government does find a way to help it grow."

The emergence of the Green Deal Conduit also challenges the Green Deal Providers to put their money where their mouths are and demonstrate whether they are really serious about working with smaller businesses.

Electrical Contractors' Association head of business policy and practice, Paul Reeve, is a supporter of the Green Deal Conduit. "Small businesses will not only provide more choice, but also the service flexibility and innovation that will encourage a much broader range of customers to engage with the green deal," he says.

Photo by Evelyn Berg


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

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3 comments - read them below or add one

Linn Rafferty

Linn Rafferty from JTec Energy PerformanceComment left on: 17 July 2012 at 10:44 am

Cathy, Tim

I read that Tim is on the verge of committing to a Green Deal Assessor course (note, the qualification refers to this as a Green Deal Advisor, but they are one and the same person and DECC uses the terms interchangeably).

The Green Deal Advisors Association  currently provides an information service to would-be Advisors, and is also setting up a consortium of members who want to work as Green Deal Advisors.  A bit like the Green Deal Conduit for installers, but for assessors.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 17 July 2012 at 9:05 am

Hi Tim - this is the million dollar question, and until the market has developed more it's going to be difficult to answer. My hope is that the market will develop similarly to the market for financial advice so that there are various routes: one where people who are tied in, and you know they are offering a limited range of products and so are not really independent, by any normal definition; one where people can sell a wider range and are rewarded by commission, and another - the most important I thing for RE installers - where the buyer is willing to pay for the advice upfront, because they value real independence and quality advice.

Lots of the research indicates that the financing side of things isn't going to be that attractive to lots of people, that being able to afford the monthly repayments is much more important. However, being a GDA can help you access ECO funding for your customers, and they can also use the green deal to part fund renewable energy installations, so there is potential for all sorts of different ways of using it. It will depend on what sort of Green Deal Providers emerge and how many of them will work with a bottom up model that starts with the customer and what they want/need, and, so far, we just don't know!

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TimLynamComment left on: 16 July 2012 at 10:41 am

Hi Cathy, this is something I have been considering of late. I have registered my interest with the Conduit but I remain sceptical about the role of independent Green Deal Advisors, especially at the domestic level. As an Accredited PV & Thermal installer (but with a background in development, land & planning), my immediate thoughts are that the market will involve the 'big-players' using Energy Assessors and Sales people. I am on the verge of committing to a Green Deal Assessor course but the Government are again letting deadlines drift. I have approached a number of the big home insulation companies asking how they intend to roll-out the Green Deal and I am getting no meaningful response. What are your thoughts. Tim

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