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How green is my deal? Not very

Governments tend not to solve problems, only to rearrange them.

In this industry it seems there are as many differing opinions as there are people; twice as many solutions as there are questions and at least one counter-argument for every proposition.

That said, having waded through all the material published in the last few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that whether or not you perceive the Green Deal to be a ‘good thing’ largely depends on whether you sell boilers, renewable heating solutions or ‘just’ insulation.

One of the problems that the DECC figures into the first quarter’s Green Deal activity has thrown light upon, is that most of the cashback scheme money has been swallowed up by people purchasing new boilers.

In all likelihood, those people would have bought themselves a new boiler anyway and they just seized upon the opportunity to get some wonga back from the tax-payer (let’s call a spade a spade here). I’m not sure I blame them for that. Hell, if I’d been in a position to do it, I’d have done the same thing.

The Government, for once, seems to have tried to engage in some joined-up thinking, by announcing that the domestic RHI initiative is to tied in to the Green Deal, in that you won’t be able to get the feed-in-tariff unless you have had a Green Deal assessment first and have a minimum standard of insulation fitted. Of course, this is the same Government that reduced the money available for the domestic RHi in the Chancellor’s Spending Review, so you can’t have everything, I guess.

What all this seems to mean is that people in businesses that sell a wider package of green-deal-type ‘stuff’ for want of a better phrase, such as biomass boilers, heat source pumps and condensing boilers have a rather more favourable outlook on the Green Deal that those whose product area is more limited.

There is a lot wrong with the Green Deal, but there are ways to fix it, as Steven Heath’s excellent guest blog goes some way to explaining. Even SBS’s Paul Joyner, whilst adamant it is a slow-burn operation that will lift-off in the Autumn, agrees that the finance is a real issue for a great many people.

I think Joyner is probably right, that the Green Deal, like any new initiative will take time to become established. It’s something that Wolseley’s Tim Pollard has said too – and that, intrinsically, it’s not a bad thing.

Greg Barker too, has said that it was always going to be a slow-burn affair. I get that. I understand that. It makes sense that a new initiative will take time to bed in and become accepted as ‘the way to do things’.

What does annoy me though is that the government didn’t seem to think there was a problem with replacing an established – if in itself slightly flawed – system such as CERT, with something that was going to take such a long time to get going.

Did it really not occur to them that taking away one funding mechanism without ensuring that its replacement was a) in place and b) working would have a disastrous effect on the sector that had become dependent upon that funding?

In an ideal world, of course, we wouldn’t need a sector to be so dependent on subsidies from energy companies. In an ideal world, people would want to improve their homes and reduce their energy consumption as a matter of course and would see the value and sense in paying to do it.

The insulation companies that have seen a 97% drop in work since CERT finished don’t really care about a ‘slow-burn’ or ‘taking off in Autumn’. They need the work now, before they go out of business.

Too late? Oh.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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