Energy secretary says he’s ‘proud’ of Green Deal despite figures showing cavity wall insulation installations have collapsed

Ed Davey

Energy secretary Ed Davey has said he is “proud” of the government’s efforts to tackles energy efficiency, despite recent figures showing there has been a 97% drop in cavity wall insulation installations.

As Building revealed last month, cavity wall insulation installation figures have collapsed under the Green Deal, falling a staggering 97% in April compared to the same month last year.

Challenged in parliament, Davey said he “understood” the problem with cavity wall installations, but said the real issue that would be addressed by the Green Deal was improving the energy efficiency of solid walls.

He said: “I understand the issue in the cavity wall insulation market, but … there are very few cavity walls left to fill.

“The real issue in the building fabric of the nation is solid walls. There are 7 million solid walls that are yet to be treated for energy efficiency.

“The Green Deal and ECO will do something about it. That is where the biggest wins are available and we are proud of what we are doing.”

But shadow climate change minister Luciana Berger said the government’s own figures showed there were around 5.8 million homes that still needed cavity wall insulation installed.

She said: “There has been a 97% plummet in the number of cavity wall insulation installations, one in four insulation workers has lost their job since December and, according to industry reports, just three people are paying back a green deal loan on their electricity bill.

“When is [the government] going to make the Green Deal a good deal, so that the ambition that we all share is achieved?”

Vince Matthews, head of marketing at SIG Energy Management, said while the collapse in cavity insulation installations was “bad news for the construction industry”, what was “more concerning is that figures for the installation of solid wall insulation measures are not rising at the same time”.

He said the government had failed to put in place adequate transition measures between the previos government schemes, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP), and the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

He said: “It stood to reason that that cavity wall insulations would be hard hit; most of the low hanging fruit had already been plucked, leaving only the harder-to-treat properties which require more complex insulation solutions.

“Right from the start it was these homes that ECO sought to address; those which, having been left largely untouched by CERT and CESP, remained most in need of improvement.

“However, while we were depending on ECO to quickly pick up from where CERT and CESP left off, the smooth transition we all hoped for simply hasn’t materialised - largely due to widespread uncertainty about the new administration of the schemes.

“At this stage, the scheme doesn’t give homeowners the confidence to commit to a loan, whether that’s for cavity, solid wall insulation or other measures. With ECO, energy companies are still unsure of how to identify and improve hard-to-treat properties within the cost guidelines set by Government.

“As a result, it’s not just the energy efficiency of our housing stock that is on the line; the industry itself is now struggling to stay afloat in the face of this significant drop in workflow.

“What we need now is for energy companies to finalise their approach to ECO, backed up by decisive action from Government to drive consumer interest in the Green Deal. In lieu of this materialising, installation volumes will continue to flat-line, and we will likely see a once burgeoning industry tragically fall by the wayside.”

Cavity wall installations - Green Deal