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Green Deal Farce

A Tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Blimey. I take a few days off to take the kids to the beach and the Government’s energy efficiency policy goes to hell in a handcart.

Loyal readers of this blog will remember the last post I wrote about the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. About how many adverts there are out there, all aimed at home-improvement-minded people with the wherewithal to invest in their homes in return for a bit of Government cash back as an incentive.

Well, it doesn’t matter now because they’ve canned it.

Just 48 hours after DECC announced that they were cutting the cashback because £50m of the allocated £120m had already been used up, the scheme closed due to “unprecedented demand”. I’ll say. If you take the DECC announcement at face value, that means that around £70m worth of vouchers had been issued in 48 hours, compared with the £50m in a little over 8 weeks.

The way the GDHIF worked was for householders to arrange – and pay for – an assessment of their homes by a registered Green Deal Assessor which would detail the kind of energy efficiency improvement work that their home required. Once this assessment had been done, householders could then claim a voucher worth up to £7,600 depending on the measures installed.

It’s the vouchers that have been issued, not actual cash. DECC figures suggested on Thursday night that 21,000 vouchers had been issued. Well, assuming they are all spent on solid wall insulation, then DECC has a point – that’ll be all the money gone. Except a) we don’t know what they are going to be spent on and b) it’s unlikely that they’ll all go on solid wall.

Another thing is that these figures that would seem to indicate that 14,000 vouchers were issued to householders in the space of a fortnight. DECC’s own stats show that, up to July 14th, 6607 vouchers had been issued. I’m just not sure I believe that that many individual householders were so on the ball.

I don’t know exactly how the scheme worked in practice in terms of the vouchers. Is DECC sure that they have all gone to individual households? How do they know ? Did householders have to prove their identity? If you ask DECC this question they get very tight-lipped about it all, referring press to the official statements, with a rather woolly promise to maybe look again at the scheme at some point in the future.

Am I being overly cynical in wondering whether most of that last minute flurry of applications went to middlemen, lead generators and canvassers, to companies who want to get hold of the vouchers so they can entice householders into doing business with them? Or to reduce their own costs. Judging by my Twitter feed on Thursday night, I may be being cynical, but I’m not the only one.

And what of the people who had already paid for their Green Deal Assesements and had them carried out but hadn’t yet applied for the voucher? Tough. Of course, the Green Deal itself is still going, it’s just the cash-back incentive scheme that’s over. DECC will no doubt argue that people can still benefit from investing in improving the energy efficiency of their homes using the existing Green Deal mechanism. Which is true, I’ll give them that.

It just seems so farcical that a Government can go to so much trouble to get an incentive scheme going and then shut it quite so swiftly when it proves successful. They even produced a website with free downloads of various generic promotional and marketing material to use on pop-up banners, posters, etc to help businesses take advantage of the scheme. Funnily enough, that link no longer works.

It looks like Amber Rudd, the new Energy Minister, has got her work cut out for her this week. She needs to get out there and get rid of all those posters advertising the scheme pretty damn quick. I counted a dozen on my way home tonight.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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