DECC is busily embarking on a programme of work streams involving energy companies, financial institutions, NGOs and others aiming at figuring out how to make the Green Deal work. Under the secretariat of the Energy Savings Trust, there are four work streams covering supply chain, making homes more energy efficient accreditation of installation and advice accreditation.
It maybe that this is all part of a careful plan, but it does all sound a little late in day for a scheme that will go live in a year and will need to be fully rounded in legislation in just a few months time. It is also particularly generous of EST to front all this work up, considering that they are having their government grant has been cut by half and are making substantial redundancies as a result. In their position I think I might just say to DECC ‘it was your department’s bright idea – now work it out. We’re too busy working out how to survive your cuts’ – but then I’m not the EST.
However Green Deal does turn out to work, it looks like it will continue to suffer from the ‘Proof and Treat Cold Homes Individually’ (PATCHI) problem that inevitably slows progress up in the monumental task that Green Deal and other schemes are aiming at – of getting the UK’s homes collectively up to an efficient energy standard a relatively short time. CERT, which requires energy companies to go and identify and then assist vulnerable householders with home energy efficiency certainly suffers from the PATCHI problem, and there is no sign yet that the Energy Companies Obligation, (still as far as I know yet to have a series of dedicated work streams sorting out how it will work) will take a different approach. The ‘faster’ track approach plainly has to be ‘whole area’ programmes, uplifting communities as they go. We might characterise this as ‘Whole Area Renovation Managing to Optimise Energy Saving’ (WARMTOES). Only one scheme, CESP (Community Energy Saving Programme), has taken a largely WARMTOES approach. Starting in September 2009, CESP set out an obligation on Energy companies to reduce carbon through community energy saving activity. The obligation runs to the end of 2012, at which point, it is now decided, it will be replaced by Green Deal and ECO. CESP areas have to be in the lowest 15% income band, taking in large areas of fuel poverty and fuel vulnerability in the process.
But how well does CESP work? I had a look at one of the major programmes run by the innovators in CESP, British Gas, last week in Walsall (whose football team inexplicably beat Southampton immediately afterwards, but I don’t hold that against them). Before anybody runs off to the Members register of interests to check my new entry as an agent of British Gas, incidentally, I did make Sir Richard Branson a tiny bit richer and me a large amount poorer in so doing, but British Gas did provide me with a sandwich when I got there, which I greatly appreciated.
To get back to the point, the results of the BG Walsall CESP programme are, I think truly stunning. A large 1950s solid walled council/housing association estate has been completely transformed both in appearance and energy efficiency with some remarkable SAP rating rises through very smart external thermal cladding, new A rated boilers and roof insulation. One resident informed me that her monthly energy bill had gone down from £66 per month to £22 as a result. A tower block in the area has been similarly treated without decanting residents, and replacing storage heaters with a small district heating scheme. It has been a collaboration with Walsall council, but the scheme has reached beyond local authority tenancies to take in private houses on the estate, so that over 350 homes (in other words all but a very few) have been treated and transformed. That approach, it seems to me is exactly what we will need if we really are to gain the sort of momentum in home energy efficiency that we are still struggling to achieve. Perhaps the Green Deal work streams could take an afternoon out and go and have a peek at a real ‘green deal’ in operation: or even, someone could design ECO to look rather more like CESP than CERT. Since we’re into acronyms, then, it’s WARMTOES over PATCHI any day. That’s what Ivy from Walsall would tell you anyway.