Regulation and clarity have been called for regarding the Green Deal. How is the government responding?

Will the Green Deal be a good deal? And for whom? Having announced this politically tricky initiative, the government is now busy trying to figure out how to make it work. The Whitehall PR machine has gone into in overdrive in recent months, pointing out the benefits the initiative will bring. The headlines have certainly attracted attention - 250,000 new jobs will be created over the next decade, the country’s 26 million existing homes will be more energy-efficient by 2050 and the opportunities for hundreds of newly formed consortiums, such as Arup and Skanska’s will be enormous. And all paid for upfront by the private sector, with householders paying their contributions through energy bills. But, behind the hype, there has been a notable lack of detail, for example, on exactly how it is to be funded and accredited. And now Nick Raynsford has weighed into the debate, claiming this week that the deal is ill thought out in the first place.

So far, the emphasis has been on selling the Green Deal to the average householder. After all, why should Joe Bloggs be expected to improve his home if it’s only going to lighten his back pocket? The government is set to announce the latest idea in a string of incentives to tempt a critical mass of homeowners to adopt green measures in its budget statement on 23 March as well as announcing “transformational changes” to mixed-use community planning procedures, according to construction minister Prisk, speaking at Ecobuild this week. Under the plans being considered, millions of poorly insulated homes would be liable for a penalty rate of stamp duty, which owners can claim back if they upgrade in a certain time limit.

The government’s apparent preference for the carrot of incentives over the stick of regulation is, however, at odds with most of the construction industry. Paul Morrell’s Low Carbon Construction Innovation and Growth team last year recommended regulation, such as imposing energy efficiency standards on existing homes, to make the Green Deal work. The CBI is calling for clarity on payback periods, to make the deal attractive to private investors and small firms. Industry representatives, meanwhile, want proper regulation of the people who will carry out the work so the cowboys don’t get a look in.

An Englishman’s home is, as the likes of the Daily Mail so consistently point out, his castle, and government directives relating to private property are never going to go down well. But stamp duty tinkering looks unlikely to force the UK to go green fast enough, and it is still possible that nervy Treasury ministers will want water down even those initiatives and let the market rule. The government may yet need to heed construction’s call for more robust legislation. Those green targets are ambitious, and there’s no room, or time, for half measures.   

Tom Broughton is brand director for Building