Energy companies will pay for eco-upgrades and get paid back through fuel bills, says energy secretary at Lib-Dem conference

Energy secretary Chris Huhne has promised to deliver a re-fit industry of 250,000 jobs with the Coalition’s plan for a new Green Deal to improve existing homes.

In his keynote address to the Liberal Democrat party conference, Huhne said the Green Deal, which will see energy companies pay for eco-upgrades to homes and get paid back through fuel bills, was part of a green “revolution” instituted by the coalition.

He said: “The Green Deal could also create a whole new industry that will help offset the drag anchor of the budget squeeze. Not just the 26,000 people working in insulation now, but up to 250,000 jobs in every part of the country, working on 26m homes.”

He also confirmed that the Green Deal plan will be extended to commercial premises, as predicted by Building last month, and said councils would be able to use the mechanism on an area wide basis.

He said “Going into commercial premises too, so that small businesses also save money. Local councils will be able to promote the renewal of whole neighbourhoods, bringing energy savings, purchasing power and local jobs to every community across the country.”

The plan, which builds on a strategy already being implemented by Labour, will see the upgrades paid for by the private sector up front and paid back by home owners, with the private borrowing likely to be underwritten in some way by the government.

He said that the move to a green economy, through the Green Deal, investment in wind power, new power stations and electric transport, coupled with the setting up of a Green Investment Bank, will “turbo-charge” the economy.

He said: “Every year, new private spending will be enough to offset the money that the Treasury has to take out to put the public finances right.”

He re-confirmed the coalition’s agreement to deliver a new wave of nuclear power stations, despite the many reservations voiced by conference delegates over the week. “I’m fed up with the stand-off between renewable and nuclear which means we have neither.”

The UK Green Building Council responded immediately to the speech, saying the Green Deal could drive a “refurbishment revolution in the UK.”

The body said it had managed to cut the fuel bills on one estate by over 70% through a comprehensive eco refurbishment, which could be rolled out more widely under the proposed Green Deal.