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How green is your Government?

Be the green grass above me, with showers and dewdrops wet; and if thou wilt, remember, and if thou wilt, forget.

The greenest Government ever? In your dreams, David Cameron.

The first, non-domestic, phase of the Renewable Heat Initiative, which the industry had hoped would boost the take-up of renewable heating technology, was suspended at the last minute thanks to European Commission concerns that the large biomass tariff, of 2.7p per kilowatt hour, had been set too high.

The timing of the announcement, just hours before applications for the grants were due to open, shocked the renewables sector – I’ve heard it described in various terms, from “disappointing” to “own goal” and a few that were a wee bit stronger.

Now they are, according to the FT, talking about slashing the FIT- Feed-In-Tariff – for domestic installations. Some in DECC are calling for the tariff to be slashed by as much as two-thirds, although Climate Change Minister Greg Barker is thought to favour something a bit less draconian as a compromise.

For most people, it’s only the FITs that makes it worthwhile installing renewable technology in the first place. I know a chap whose parents have just installed solar PV panels on the (quite immense) south-facing roof of their Kent farmhouse. He says that if he ever can’t find his parents, they will invariably be found in the cupboard checking the progress of the panels and how much energy and therefore money is being generated. He reckons the pay-back will be around seven or eight years with FITs – without them, it simply wouldn’t have been a good investment.

Today the Energy Bill was finalised and with it, the countdown to the Green Deal. Anyone who was at the BMF Members Day and heard DECC’s David Purdy speak knows that, while there has been a lot of work done – not the least of it behind the scenes by the BMF – the nitty-gritty of exactly how it will work has yet to be finalised.

There’s also the point that no-one has yet worked out exactly how to make the Green Deal appeal to householders. The evidence of the trials run by Sutton Council and others show that there is still loads of apathy out there. Even when it’s free, as in one case in Bristol, people simply don’t prioritise insulation.

We all know that they should, but, if we’re honest, we know that people have other things, more glamorous things, that they’d rather spend it on. Despite the fact that the news is full of how much energy bills are still to go up by.

The research that Knauf other insulation manufacturers are available) publicised last week featured a rather scary graph which showed the likely negative impact on insulation installations (and, therefore energy-saving measures) of the fact that the Green Deal will not include any financial incentives for normal, non-benefit, non-pensioner households. Which is the majority of households.

If a government is truly serious about insulating the 26million homes out there that require it, then they have to understand that people need more incentive than ‘it’s good for the planet’ or, even, ‘it’s good for your pocket’. Sad, but true.

What are the chances of getting any further incentives? With this ‘greenest ever’ Government? In your dreams.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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