Has DCLG got it in for DECC? You don’t need to be a complete conspiracy theorist to conclude that it has. You only need to look at the appearance of the Green Deal, contained in the Department’s flagship energy bill now going through Parliament, and the sniping from DCLG it has endured ever since its inception.
First there was the emergence of the provisions in the bill for landlords of rented property to be encouraged to uprate the energy efficiency of their properties through green deal, and the inclusion of reserve powers to penalise landlords who refuse to have anything to do with it. There was a supportive response from DCLG: the cancellation of plans to introduce a national register of landlords and homes in multiple occupation, making it all but impossible actually to find anyone who might be penalised under the legislation.
Secondly the Green Deal, which applied only to homes already in existence, for the very good reason that there existed already the Code for Sustainable Homes. The Code requires all homes built from 2016 onwards to be ‘zero carbon’ overall that is, the emissions from the home taken all together with any energy saving or production measures built into the house would come to zero – no need, then for any sort of ‘green deal’ makeover. At least that end of the housing market would be secure, and as DECC ministers repeatedly made clear, it was the 26 million existing homes in the UK that would be the focus of Green Deal. Greg Barker, the minister responsible for the Green deal was also clear about new build. “We are committed to carbon neutrality”, he said last July “and I know that my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government are looking to see if there is any room for making the target more effective.”
Supportive response from DCLG: take the carbon neutral plans for new house building out and shoot them, which is what they have succeeded in doing in some unannounced small-print passages in the budget documents. Builders will now only be “accountable for those carbon dioxide emissions that are covered by the building regulations” a change that, according to the UK Green Building council, lowers carbon savings for new homes built after 2016 by a third.
That little piece of sabotage is, incidentally accompanied by the bizarre suggestion from DCLG (housing minister Grant Shapps on 1st February, to be precise) that somehow, the Green Deal can be used to underwrite the costs of meeting even this lower carbon requirement: as far as I can see he envisages B&Q nipping in to fund the solar roof as it is put on the new house, so that the eventual proud owner, and not the builder, foots the long term cost of putting it up. Hmmm. I wonder if he consulted you on this, Greg? Either way he had enough clout to get it put into the Government ‘Plan for Growth’ as an outline commitment.
So: landlords’ energy efficiency requirements scuppered; new homes energy efficiency sabotaged: part of green deal captured to save builders money: what next? I can only advise DECC ministers to look very carefully around corners when they are out and about in case someone is lurking there waiting to wreck the next bit of the energy efficiency push: and just in case they don’t know who to look for, I’m glad to be of help; he’ll be very large, and not very green.