Where next for UK green home improvement?
By Mark Pearce, Managing Director, KJM Windows & Conservatories
In the summer a Commons report lambasted the Government’s flagship green energy policy, the Green Deal* as ‘abysmal’. So what’s new and where is the Government going on home energy efficiency?
Sadly, the answer appears to be nowhere. Yes, we have had Brexit, yes we have had a change of political leadership, the Euros and Olympics – there are always distractions but that doesn’t negate the requirement for energy efficiency investment in the UK’s energy-leaking housing stock.
The whole point of the civil service is that while politicians ‘throw bricks at each other’, the work of government continues but with nothing of significance coming out of DECC or its successor the newly created Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department, where does it leave us – apart from wandering in the wilderness?
The void in political leadership has prompted some interest groups to call for the resurrection of the Great British Refurb. Originally launched in 2009, four years ahead of the Green Deal, it aimed to tap into UK homeowners’ insatiable appetite for home improvements – and a good deal – making grant funding available for energy efficient works. An altogether far more straight-forward proposal than the complex funding arrangements set out in its successor scheme.
At the same time, there are calls for the UK to rattle the stick of legislation, introducing a new and more stringent home energy efficiency rating, and penalties for landlords or homeowners whose properties fell short.
This dual ‘carrot and stick’ approach is never going to be popular with all - and penalties sit at the more radical end of green energy policy - but we are nonetheless fast approaching a point where the ‘stick’ may be needed.
Planning controls and our woefully inadequate ability to build new homes, means that 70 per cent of the homes the nation will occupy by 2050 have already been built – many dating from the pre-war period. It means that we need a nationwide programme of energy efficiency retrofitting now.
Energy efficient windows and doors, can play a critical part in improving the energy efficiency of UK homes. According to the Energy Saving Trust Heat lost through windows, for example, accounts for around 25 per cent of the total heat lost from your home.
Energy efficient windows and doors can cut this heat loss by up to 75 per cent. In a detached three-bedroom home, this can equate to an annual saving over and above single – and in many cases, older double-glazed windows - of up to £160 a year in heating bills.
KJM Group supplies an extensive range of low maintenance and energy efficient windows and doors, throughout Hampshire, Dorset, and Wiltshire. This includes casement, tilt and turn and vertical sliding windows and doors in PVC-U, timber and aluminium and energy saving triple-glazed windows with U-values as low as 0.66W/m².K.
I (and others) have suggested it before, but as opposed to a complex scheme like the Green Deal, a very simple measure that could be introduced easily would be to lower the rate of VAT on windows that had a lower U value.
Putting Brexit to one side, one way or another we need a clear energy policy that gives homeowners incentives as well as a gentle ‘nudge’ along the way to improve the energy efficiency of their homes now. All eyes now look to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark!
The Green Deal
*Introduced in January 2013, the Green Deal was simple in theory but less so in practice. The Government leant money to householders to help them improve the energy efficiency of their homes through insulation, boiler upgrades and double glazing. Residents saved money in the long term from cheaper bills, and paid back the loan through their savings. In reality interest rates at 8% - a rate higher than many ordinary bank loans – and a complex and overly laborious sign-up process meant that take up came in woefully short of target.
July’s report on the green deal by the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) has revealed that only 14,000 loans, costing £50m, were provided to households – far short of the £1.1bn target previously predicted by the government. They were delivered at a cost of £17,000 for every loan arranged, payable by the UK tax payer!
The Chair of the PAC said "The government rushed the Green Deal without proper consideration of the concerns about its weakness" Caroline Flint MP stated "It is clearly desirable to make homes more energy-efficient but the Green Deal in particular was not fit for purpose"
I believe its time for a simple approach to government policy like lowering VAT on the most energy efficient products. This should not cost anywhere near as much to implement.