Countdown to the Green Deal...
Assuming all goes to plan, we are now only six months away from the start of the Green Deal and, with our Green Deal event series ending last month, it seems an appropriate time to stop and reflect on the last 12 months and where we are up to with the Government’s flagship scheme.
Last May, when I joined the UK-GBC, the Green Deal was still a relatively under-developed concept, with the extent of DECC’s proposals covered in a few short documents hosted on the Department’s website. My first task was to distil these into a member-friendly briefing document ahead of the first of our Green Deal events – a workshop here at the Building Centre which saw 80 or so members turn up to hear speakers from DECC and its four Green Deal fora outline the emerging plans for the scheme.
Demand for places at the event were an indication of the level of interest in and support for the scheme. But this was not unconditional, and questions were raised across the board: would people be interested in taking up the offer; how would the assessments work and how much would they cost; which technologies would be eligible; how would the Golden Rule work in practice; who would have access to the finance; what would the role be for SMEs? Of course, at that point many of the answers were “TBC”, but their breadth and number immediately demonstrated to Government, industry and us that developing the Pay as You Save concept into a functioning scheme was likely to be no easy task.
Over the following months, Government continued to convene its four main fora and a host of subsidiary groups to get the bottom of the all-important detail. We were members of the “Capacity and Innovation” forum, and jointly convened the Commercial Property Group, looking at the Green Deal for business. As ever, we continued to meet with officials to raise and discuss members’ concerns to ensure that that the proposals for the scheme were practical, workable and ambitious, and to share what we learned with you all.
As the Autumn approached, industry eagerly awaited the publication of the consultation document. And we waited. And we waited some more. Eventually the consultation was published on the 23rd of November, coinciding nicely with the second of our events – an all-day consultation workshop held at Coin Street. Following a keynote speech from Greg Barker, a succession of top industry speakers attempted to interpret, simplify and respond to the hundreds of pages of consultation documents for the benefit of the 130-strong audience. Amazingly, many of the earlier issues had deepened and multiplied rather than disappeared, with uncertainty over take-up of the scheme occupying the top spot on the list of most pressing concerns amongst those present.
A frantic December and January followed, with us all doing our best to understand and react to the proposals. Alongside this we held our Customer Journey “Hothouse”, looking at the end-to-end consumer journey through the Green Deal, and continued to meet regularly with a group of potential Green Deal Providers who were, similarly, interested in making sure that the full range of policy proposals translated into as a commercial proposition. Our headline thoughts on the consultation are well covered elsewhere, with the main points of interest being the degree of consensus across a wide range of different organisations as to the good and bad points of the design, and the changes required (which still reflected many of the views raised all those months before at our first event).
We finished our event series with two smaller events, one in Coventry and one in Bristol. These gave members the opportunity to hear how leading companies (E.ON and Wilmott Dixon) were developing their plans for the arrival of the scheme – from loft clearance schemes, to solid wall insulation trials – and to hear from me as to what to expect next in the development of the scheme.
So where are we up to? Well, we are still waiting for the Government’s response to the consultation, but Government has continued to drip-feed developments into the public domain. Many of these have, with credit to DECC, sought to address the concerns we have all flagged over recent months. For example, steps have been taken to encourage SMEs to participate in the scheme through the reduction of the burdens associated with becoming a “Provider”; and greater details have emerged on the role of ECO, and the transition from CERT and CESP to this new scheme. At the same time, proposals have been developed by DCLG to encourage take-up of the scheme via “Consequential Improvement” regulations (though these have faced intense opposition, and now look set to be dropped), and the Green Deal Finance Company have continued to crystallise – now with a commitment from the Green Investment Bank to play a role in financing the early years of the scheme.
So, overall, a busy year. There is much that remains to be done to get the detail right, but it genuinely feels like we are at least approaching the final lap of a race that has been rather more beset by hurdles than we might have hoped. The laying of the secondary legislation in Parliament will play the role of the final bell that leads us all to ready ourselves for the sprint to October’s finishing line. To stretch a metaphor to breaking point – in a way that is probably only acceptable in an Olympic year – let’s hope that the prize is worth all the effort.
UK-GBC's Green Deal series was kindly sponsored by: