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Let’s go green again

The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance.

It’s back!! The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund has been re-opened.

The Government has had a fumble around down the back of the DECC sofa and amongst the dust and the sweet wrappers it has found enough spare change to fund the GDHIF again for a while.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey announced the boost at the Lib Dem Conference this afternoon (October 7).

Hoo-blinking-ray. Sort of.

When the rug was pulled out from under the Fund in July when it ran out of money, there was the distinct impression that the Government had looked at some figures on a spreadsheet and panicked. There was also a lot of anecdotal evidence that many of the vouchers had not, in fact, been claimed by householders at all. Rather, that they had been hoovered up by those cold-calling firms who seem to bypass the Telephone Preference Service, who would be using the vouchers as incentives to get business for themselves.

Still, to give the Government some credit, they did say at the time that they would re-visit the scheme if it became apparent that there was still sufficient demand for it. And, surprise, surprise, there is.

They had to do something I suppose or else they risk going into the election next year with their flagship energy policy in tatters.

Right from the start, the scheme has been delivered in a messed-up, not to say arse-about-face way.

At the beginning, all work done under the Green Deal was to be funded purely by loans – at higher than usual interest rates -from special providers, paid back via the electricity bill. Then, when it became clear that people were flocking to it in insufficiently high numbers, there was a cashback scheme to boost take-up, and then a Son-of-cashback scheme. When this was deemed to be too successful, it was closed with the funding mechanism reverting back to loans.

As if this wasn’t farcial enough, this week there was a story about the Green Deal Finance Company being unable to persuade the Green Investment Bank to fund it sufficiently to allow it to continue lending. Eh?

Yes, to repeat: The Green Deal Finance Company, set up with more than £240m of public money, has run into trouble partly because it has been unable to convince the state-owned Green Investment Bank to continue funding it.

Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

This scheme has not delivered what it promised from the beginning and that is because the delivery mechanism that it was set up with was flawed from the outset.

Details of how to apply for the new Green Deal Home Improvement Fund will be released in November sometime, with the money available from the end of November.

Well, forgive my continuing cynicism, but I think that unless they get the delivery mechanism sorted out then it’s not going to make much difference to our energy problems. Some people who started down the application process but didn’t get their funding through in time will have been put off trying again. Others will have just got on with the work anyway. And while that’s clearly a good thing, if it’s not done under the aegis of the Green Deal then it doesn’t count as a success for the Green Deal or the Government.

Most electricians, plumbers and builders I know don’t want anything to do with all this, as they say its overcomplicated paper trails and qualifying criteria make it just unviable.

Improving energy efficiency of our homes is not just A Good Thing. It is The Only Thing to do if we are to stand any chance of alleviating fuel poverty, reducing our energy bills and our reliance on fossil fuels.

Whoever gets in after the election will you please, please, please sort this out properly? I won’t hold my breath.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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