The piece in the Guardian on Monday ‘Green deals upfront fees ’put people off upgrading homes’ sets out what many people were thinking and fearing as the Green Deal opens for business. This is that when you decide you might like to go for a Green Deal arrangement, you will need an assessment in order to access any of the improvements available, and it looks like you will have to cough up perhaps a hundred pounds for that, whether or not you then (maybe on the basis of the assessment itself) decide to proceed or not. And of course, it completely knocks out what I always thought was something of a fantasy, namely that you might ‘shop around’ for Green Deal quotes: even if you retrieve some or all of your money if you subsequently deal with the company that has assessed you, you certainly won’t from those you’ve ‘shopped around’ with.
If it does turn out that most of the companies offering assessments do indeed decide to charge , then I think it will be a real deterrent to very many people, not offset much, even in the early stages of the Deal, by what the Department has announced will be the ‘tariff’ for their ‘cashback’ which is now enshrined in the Coalition midterm report appearing in the ‘promise ‘ section’ as ‘a £125 million cash-back’ scheme to encourage energy efficiency improvements by households and businesses’.
The details of the cashback ‘tariff’ for each item of Green Deal makeover were published at the end of October (here): you’ll get £100 for loft, and £250 for cavity wall insulation, for example, but you will have to have these done before being eligible for anything else from the tariff. So if you have had several quotes, and you go for the basics, you might just about recover your money from the cashback scheme.
I do blame myself a little for this: I didn’t kick up much of a fuss about assessors fees when the issue was raised and discussed during the passage of the Energy Bill in 2010. But then those who did query it during the committee Stage of the Bill (my prescient colleague Ian Lavery MP, to be precise) were reassured by the following from the minister, Greg Barker.
A proper, thorough, professional assessment of any given property will incur a charge. If the consumer goes ahead with a green deal implementation on the property, the charge will either be rolled up into a green deal package, or it may be that some retailers or green deal providers will offer it for free and write it off in return for going with them. (Bill committee session three col 100)
So in mitigation suppose we can say we were lulled a little, and I suppose we then thought that this would, somehow be built into the process. Now it seems that this is not to be so.
But all is not yet lost (which not many non-Poles know happens to be the first line of their national anthem ; just thought I’d let you know). That Green Deal tariff document tells us that ‘these rates are guaranteed for the first £40 million….act early to get the best rates’. In other words, £85 million of the £125 earmarked is still floating around, courtesy of the Chancellor. Now how many assessments at British Gas prices would that cover? Not difficult maths – 850,000 or enough for about seven years worth of assessments, assuming some do not go ahead. It would surely make more sense to give the customers the cashback on theassessment, rather than after all the work has been done and the supposed savings are kicking in anyway. So by all means Greg, go ahead with the first £40 million of scorching deals and get things up and running (well you’ve rather committed yourself to that anyway): but add another small voucher scheme to the one you’ve got for householders – get the assessors to claim back the money for assessments from the rest of the pot: a sort of ‘cashfront’ scheme. Then quite a few more people might get stuck into Green Deal in the first place, which is what we want to happen, isn’t it? You’ll thank me in the end.