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Green Deal 'a catastrophe from start to finish'

The government had failed to listen to the construction industry over the Green Deal and needs urgently to devise a new energy efficiency strategy, according to a leading trade body.

Speaking after the government made the shock announcement that it is to end funding for the Green Deal Finance Company, Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry labelled the policy “a catastrophe from start to finish”.

Mr Berry told Construction News: “We know the green deal hasn’t been a success but the government doesn’t seem to have any strategy for promoting retrofit work.

“Less than five years ago, they said it was their flagship policy and now they’re brushing it under the carpet.

“It was an ambitious programme with a great vision for transforming our existing building stock, but there was a failure to listen to industry and consumers and it was financially unattractive.

“Our members have invested in staff and skills to carry out retrofit work and now the government takes the money away.

“It is sending a very bad message to those that carry out retrofit work and shows the Green Deal is being buried under the carpet.”

DECC research into the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO) programme supply chain published today revealed that two out of three advisors, assessors and installers reported that consumer demand under the Green Deal since January 2014 had been “lower than they had expected”.

Rob Lambe, managing director of Willmott Dixon’s energy services arm, said: “This is another nail in the coffin for the market in trying to drive energy efficiency in the domestic arena, particular in private households.

“The connected announcement with the certainty that there won’t be further [support for the] Green Deal Home Improvement Fund means that there’s no money being provided to support the measures in the domestic market.”

The Department for Energy and Climate Change confirmed that the ECO programme would not be affected and will be “part of… discussions around a new, better-integrated policy”.

However, Mr Lambe said: “The ECO funding is inadequate to do most measures and there’s very little funding that has been made available through the ECO now across the board anyway.

“So between the changes on ECO a year ago and the amount of money coming into the system through ECO, without any specific package support like the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, and now with the Green Deal Finance Company no longer supported… it means that effectively there’s nothing coming into the system at all.”

The decision to scrap the Green Deal came less than two weeks after the government abandoned its zero-carbon homes policy and just a day after it emerged that it was consulting on plans to axe small-scale solar-farm subsidies.

Mat Lown, partner and head of sustainability at consultancy Tuffin Ferraby Taylor, said: “The intention was a good one, but it was just too complex and the borrowing rates didn’t make any commercial sense.

“It was complicated enough for those of us in the business, so imagine selling that to consumers.

“With this and the zero-carbon homes announcement, it’s starting to send the wrong message. Does this mean energy efficiency isn’t a priority anymore?”

UK Green Building Council chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said: “With each passing day, this government puts an end to another green policy. The government’s strategy on dealing with high energy bills through home energy efficiency is now dead in the water.

“While the Green Deal was by no means perfect, the principle of enabling households to install energy-saving measures without paying upfront costs was sound. The irony is that the scheme was finally becoming established and the number of plans was growing.

“This is yet another announcement with no forewarning that will leave the energy efficiency industry battered and bruised.”

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