Look out! He’s behind you!


Both very large, one not very green…..

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.

5 thoughts on “Look out! He’s behind you!

  1. Alan, you might add to this list the deletion of NI 186 with no replacement with not even the slightest shadow of one on the horizon.

    I attended last Wednesday’s PRASEG event on ECO, Fuel Poverty and the Green Deal. We ran out of time, but I wanted to put the question to DECC officers present about the current level of dialogue and cooperation with CLG over the role of local authorities in the Green Deal.

    The LGA’s “Local Government offer on Climate Change”, commissioned by DECC, outlines the important role local authorities can play in delivering the Green Deal by, at the very least, engaging householders, providing information on housing stock and facilitating roll out of measures. The Memorandum of Understanding between DECC and the Local Government Group seeks to further this offer. However, in the absence of any specific requirement for local authorities to take an active role in improving household energy efficiency, my concern is that this area will be under resourced. With the exception of a handful of proactive councils, the Green Deal simply will not reach the required number of homes.

    Instead of a replacement for NI 186, we see that a suggestion for NI 185 has been suggested by CLG; in my view this is an unnecessary measure given that the introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment and the need to save as energy prices rise already provide sufficient incentives for local authorities to invest in energy efficiency in their own estates.

  2. Alan, agree with much of what you’re saying but I wouldn’t be so worried about the prospect of Green Deal for new build. The idea is not to retrofit new build, but to use a Green Deal finance mechanism to share the costs of the ‘green premium’ for building zero carbon (regulated) homes, between the developer and the consumer. Check out pages 35 and 78 of our Pay As You Save report from 2009: http://www.ukgbc.org/site/document/download/?document_id=670 . Why is this a good idea? Well at the moment new home buyers are not attaching value to lower energy bills that come with zero carbon homes. So if a Green Deal charge of, say, £5000 was attached to the property over time – paid for by all subsequent owners too, then the price of the home in the first place could be reduced by £5000. The home owner is still quids in, because even after the charge is applied, their energy bills will still be lower.
    John Alker, Director of Policy & Communications, UK Green Building Council.

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