17 Jan 2012

Green Deal could hit UK climate change targets

The government’s Green Deal aims to deliver large cuts in carbon emissions. But official figures show it will mean a dramatic fall in British homes being insulated to make them more energy-efficient.

The Green Deal is meant to be at the heart of the government’s stated ambition to be “the greenest government ever”. It is meant to deliver large cuts in carbon emissions. But the government’s own figures show that it will instead lead to a dramatic fall in the number of British homes which are being lagged or insulated to make them more energy efficient.

About a million homes a year are currently being insulated under a government arrangement that make energy providers pay for most of the work. The result is vastly reduced utility bills for homeowners and significant reductions in carbon emissions from our old and leaky housing stock. But all of that is about to change.

The Department for Energy and Climate change’s figures show that they expect their new plans to reduce the take up of lost insulation by 93 per cent. That’s not a typo; it really is 93 per cent. They also predict that the numbers installing cavity wall insulation will plummet by 67 per cent.

A straightforward process?

I am ashamed to say I have never looked in my own loft to check how well insulated it is. Not very, I fear. So I called my energy provider and confirmed they offer free insulation to most of their customers. They made it sound like a very straightforward process. So why haven’t I done it before now? I could save hundreds of pounds a year and it wouldn’t cost me anything.

The government says ‘hassle factor’ is the main reason people haven’t taken advantage of existing insulation schemes.

Every major supplier offers free or cut-price deals for loft and cavity insulation. Some, like E.On, even pay you £100 for taking up their offer. Yet still more than half of the people eligible for this assistance don’t ask for it. Why?

The government itself says that “hassle factor” is the main reason people haven’t taken advantage of existing schemes that would better insulate their homes and cut their bills. Yet their Green Deal plan is about to make it much, much more of a hassle to get your home insulated.

Under the Green Deal you will have to arrange it all yourself. Arrange for an assessor or surveyor to come round and look at your property. It will also be up to you to find a building firm or contractor who will then come round and do whatever the assessor recommends.

‘Whole home’ approach

The Department for Energy and Climate Change thinks this will be more attractive to homeowners because they will have a free choice of who they want to do the work in their home. And they can take more of a “whole home” approach to energy saving. Instead of concentrating on just loft insulation and cavity walls you can get all your windows draft-proofed at the same time.

Environmentalists warn the government’s own green policy will result in the UK significantly missing its climate change targets.

The biggest change is that you will then have to pay for the costs yourself. You don’t have to write a cheque for the building work on the day it is completed. But you will pay for it through your energy bills. A small additional charge will be added to your monthly bill to pay for the costs over several years.

The government insist this will still save you money as the charge will be less than the amount you are saving on your current bills. But it will cost you more than it does right now because it’s currently free to most people.

Home insulation helps individuals because it significantly reduces their energy bills. It can also make a real difference to the environment. If this “greenest ever” government is to meet its global warming targets, it needs to double the number of lofts being lagged – not reduce it to fewer than 10 per cent of the current rate. So environmentalists are warning the government’s own green policy will result in the UK significantly missing its targets on climate change.