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andreweibi2013

Government turns from maximisation to minimisation

In October 2010, the energy and climate change minister, Greg Barker, formally invited me to chair a new advisory Forum. It was to be one of four reporting directly to him.

Over the next two years before launch, each was concerned with the development of different aspects of the new Government’s flagship policy. Our declared overall objective was to deliver “an ambitious programme to increase the energy efficiency of the UK building stock. In particular, we expect it to contribute to a 29 per cent reduction in carbon emissions from our homes and 13 per cent from non-domestic properties by 2020.”

We were christened the Green Deal Maximisation Forum. Our job was to work with Government to come up with measures to boost uptake levels.

Twenty two member organisations were nominated in Hansard. From the start, we divided the issues to be addressed into “vertical” streams, creating task-groups covering four different building categories.

The Forum’s life was extended twice by the Minister – way beyond the October 2012 date when the Green Deal scheme was launched, and he dissolved the other three sister Fora. By mutual agreement, our Forum finally came to an end only last month, by which time previously assiduous participants were regularly voting with their feet, and staying away.

Across the 42 months of existence, we held twenty plenary meetings, and no less than 59 task-group meetings. These task-groups covered owner-occupied housing; the private rented sector; social housing; and non-residential buildings. Membership of task-groups was extended to cover external participants.

The secretariat for all meetings was provided by the excellent Energy Efficiency Partnership for Buildings between 2010 and 2013 – apart from for the non-residential buildings task-group, where it was undertaken by a member organisation, the British Property Federation. In our final year of operation from April 2013, DECC provided the secretariat for plenary meetings, but all task-groups had to be abandoned.

Conspicuous by absence

For the initial years, entire meetings were regularly attended by officials from BIS, DCLG, the Scottish Executive as well as several from DECC. By the end, other departments became conspicuous for their absence.

In his open formal letter, sent last month to members recording his thanks, Greg Barker listed certain specific areas upon which the Forum had worked. This enables me to record that among the acknowledged highlights of our activities were:

a) In Spring 2011 running up to the Budget, a Forum paper on stamp duty incentives was the subject of three lengthy meetings including the then Financial Secretary with a view to inclusion in Budget 2011; in the end, the commitment was to introduce new incentives prior to launch to encourage participation in the Green Deal. This then became the £205m funding for equipment, with £140m monies allocated to cashbacks. Last year the Minister praised the Forum’s work in proposing cashbacks when reappointing us for 2013/4.

b) The Forum was appointed in 2011 by DCLG to provide the core of its formal task-group for changes to Building Regulations Part L, asked to consider how the Green Deal could best be integrated to improve existing buildings. Resultant recommendations on “consequential improvements” were incorporated into the official consultation document, which received 82 per cent endorsement from participants. DCLG estimated this would deliver 2.2m Green Deals. In the end, the policy was scrapped in December 2012, following a campaign of misrepresentation (“conservatory tax”) by the Daily Mail.

c) The Forum consistently backed the concept of creating a nationwide interlinked network of open houses, enabling visitors to view refurbishment successes in existing homes in different neighbourhoods.

d) Each of the task-groups produced a series of different reports outlining solutions pertinent to their remit. Details from these are acknowledged by the Minister to have now been integrated into existing policy, not least in the private rented sector.

e) On the non-residential side, a comprehensive and authoritative report was prepared in 2011/2, setting out how the Green Deal could operate effectively, both for larger corporates as well as SMEs. Shortly after its presentation to the Minister in March 2012, that task-group was effectively disbanded, as there was no willingness by government to take this agenda forwards. It is interesting to note that this topic was on the agenda of DECC’s latest Green Deal Advisory Group in April 2014 – when it was again effectively parked.

Creating such an ambitious advisory Forum was a well-conceived initiative, with which the vast majority of those nominated continued to be surprisingly heavily engaged with and committed to right up to, and even including, its final year. However, the decision to remove any independent secretarial support, even for the plenary let alone the task-groups, depressed expectations – as has the clear failure of the policy to date.

With still under 1,500 Green Deal Finance packages signed after 18 months of existence, the initiative has ceased being about achieving whole house retrofits of 14m homes within the decade – the initial Ministerial remit – and more about developing a niche programme. In truth, it is dubious as to whether in the context of Green Deal Finance, the word “maximisation” can be perceived now as other than derisory.

 

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Comments (13)

  • Avatar

    graham farrall

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    100% agree what a fantastic report , and a credit to you

    Reply

  • Avatar

    allan durning

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    As always, Andrew sums it all up with the brevity of an Oracle!

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Andrew Warren

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      Alan

      This public recognition is particularly appreciated, particularly coming from somebody as well known in the industry as you : thank you.

      Andrew Warren

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Andrew Warren

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    Dear Graham

    Thank you for taking the trouble to respond so enthusiastically. Whilst like anybody else I always appreciate praise, I would so much rather have been able to write a column that expressed total confidence that the excellent aspirations for the Green Deal set back by the Coalition Government in 2010 and 2011 were already being realised. The fact that the are now seven thousand FEWER people employed in delivering energy saving in homes is a sad reflection of just how far back everything has been permitted to slip.

    Reply

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    graham farrall

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    Thanks Andrew

    It is just like the Housing Market apart from the exception of the South East , the New Build Sector was totally destroyed by the Banking Industry in 2008 , and now we are in a recovery mode of about 6 months duration , the scare mongers have started again , stating that the ” Help to Buy Scheme ” is overheating the Housing Market and a danger to the recovery of the economy

    What utter B======s

    Reply

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    P Ward

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    One of the problems with the Green Deal is the cold-calling. My experience is that I get so many cold calls from scammers of various types that I never listen to any. I’ve had several ones claiming to be connected to the Green Deal. I have no idea whether they are from cowboys trying to profit from the programme or a bona fide organisation and because of this my default is to not trust any of them. This discredits the Green Deal – and by association all other green projects. It makes people think that the whole purpose of most environmental progammes is for someone to make a quick buck. the government needs to think of a way of getting householders on board that circumvents this problem. Making cold calling for commercial gain illegal would be a start.

    Reply

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    Anon

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    The UK housing scene has been ‘overheated’ since the late 60s or 70s, i.e., all my adult lifetime due to a mix of

    mortgage interest relief
    crazily high loan to value mortgages for a lender’s safety (Germany allows max. 60%)
    capital gains tax exemption
    no property value tax (this is equiv. to the income tax that a landlord pays on rents)
    overzealous planning regs. causing a shortage of owner-occupied housing
    a de facto Whitehall ban on council house construction does the same for the supply of rented housing

    We didn’t quite have all six of the above in force for the last 40-50 years but we had enough of them to keep house prices much higher than they would otherwise be. As evidence for what happens when these factors aren’t so present, look at Germany.

    Reply

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      graham farrall

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      ANON

      IT STILL DOESN’T DISTRACT FROM THE FACT THAT THERE IS A SHORTAGE OF HOUSES ESPECIALLY FIRST TIMERS ,

      BUT THIS IS A SIDE ISSUE FROM THE FAILURE OF THE GREEN DEAL

      Reply

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    Malcolm

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    The government trying to put 14 million households into further debt. Anyone would think the government worked for the bankers. Says a lot for the average householder that the government/bankers were told to sod off.

    Reply

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    Phil Beynon

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    Nobody could doubt the level of commitment and resource that ACE and more particularly Andrew applies to getting the energy efficiency sector active and sustainable. The shame is that the coalition are unable or unwilling to do likewise.

    We may all accept that Green Deal is a niche market in everything except name. However, we still need mechanisms to deliver the UKs commitments and secure the life of the energy efficiency industry.

    The Prime Minister needs to wake up and look beyond the “Green Crap” (personally think he missed out the word Deal) sound bite approach and look toward the economic, employment , health and social benefits that energy efficiency delivers to UK plc.

    A new approach or a new Government is required!

    Let’s start an online petition and you will soon see the Politicians taking notice.

    Thousands of signatures appears to have more impact than years of reasoned arguments and placing everyone’s best interest at the forefront.

    Reply

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    Andrew Warren

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    Phil

    First of all, thank you so much for your kind comments upon our work: I make it a rule always to believe flattery.

    Second, I do think that on line petitions are an interesting idea – although if you check the relevant government website, you will observe that there are absolutely masses of them in existence, some of which have been signed by a very great number of people, but very few of which seem to have (as yet) had any policy impact at all.

    As you may know, ACE has been a staunch supporter of the Energy Bill Revolution Campaign, which has had a petition on line for some time, which I commend to you (and everybody else). That said, as of now, it has yet to achieve quite the breakthrough that had been hoped.

    Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Regards

    Andrew Warren

    Reply

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