The Green Deal is looking increasingly like a poor deal, but the government has time to improve it for all our sakes

The government’s Green Deal initiative, “the biggest retrofit programme in a generation”, was launched in November with promises to create 65,000 jobs, boost SMEs and reduce carbon emissions by 2 million tonnes. Alas, the reality is so very different and the question now is whether the government has the tools to get it right by the time the policy is formalised this summer. Our investigation reveals that in its current form the Green Deal will do the complete opposite to what the rhetoric suggests, risking a sharp fall in the uptake of some of the most efficient domestic energy-reduction measures. Government figures reveal that cavity wall insulation installations are expected to drop 70% - from 510,000 to 170,000 - and annual loft insulations will plummet more than 93% from more than a million to a paltry 70,000. The warranty arrangements proposed may stunt take-up even further and lead to legal disputes in years to come. Worse still, the government’s own impact assessment has flagged up risks of structural damage to older homes and poor health in residents caused by fitting solid wall insulation. No wonder the government is now scurrying around trying to limit the damage.

The government’s own impact assessment has flagged up risks of structural damage to older homes and poor health in residents

So why all the pain? Essentially, this is about a change in approach to the financing of this type of retrofit work, one that entails the erasure of ambitious Labour targets. In short, the lucrative arrangements that the last Labour government struck with utility companies are poised to be binned in favour of alternative finance providers who, crucially, are signed up to provide the upfront costs needed to make the scheme fly. Over the coming months expect the government to put in place a re-written and much improved impact assessment, more cash-back incentives, revised targets, as well as changes to the Building Regulations that will demand consequential green upgrades following all major residential works. An expert panel to better understand the solid wall insulation issue is also sure to recommend changes. But it’s exactly that kind of uncertainty everyone could do without. As we’ve seen in the solar debacle, the government’s rhetoric on the green agenda is stronger than its practice. It has until the summer to get this one right, but the potential damage to businesses seems only to deepen with each flick of the Whitehall pen.


Flying the flag

UK Trade & Investment’s decision to fly a trade mission to Brazil next month has our full support. UK construction firms, project managers, sustainability consultants and regeneration experts will join the trip in a bid to export their skills and win work. The move may go some way to help calm what is becoming an increasingly heated issue: the prohibition on UK companies that have worked on the Olympics to effectively promote themselves here. Many are beginning to square up to Olympic bureaucrats over the rules that ban them from promoting their achievements. This is why our Building 2012 campaign to promote the people and companies involved in constructing the Games is so important. Follow the campaign online and on Twitter #BLD2012 to help cheer them on. 

Tom Broughton is Building brand director

Follow Tom on Twitter