Ahead of publishing the June Green Deal statistics, which the Department obviously knew were woefully disappointing, it went into overdrive to set out positive aspects of the scheme. It published data showing that energy efficient housing commanded a premium price over unimproved homes. It released opinion survey data reporting rising awareness and rising interest in the Green Deal. But the tangible performance record is desperately poor. Age UK is not finger-pointing and dancing for joy: the Green Deal and associated ECO (Energy Company Obligation) is the only show currently in town, and thus in the drive to address fuel poverty, and it needs to work – dramatically.
The ECO part, where energy companies install free or subsidised measures, is the closest we get to a silver lining. There were nearly 82,000 measures installed in the four months to April. The percentage of these going to low income households (those qualifying for the Affordable Warmth or Carbon Saving Communities) was nearly 70% (or about 170,000 per year if aggregated upwards), and most of the measures were loft insulation (56%), hard-to-treat cavity wall insulation (33%) and replacement boilers (10%). This installation performance suggests that households were not getting the comprehensive makeover which would make them ‘fuel-poverty-proof’, and barely dents the fuel poverty headcount of about 6m households in the UK.
Under the main Green Deal programme, 38,000 assessments have been completed by accredited surveyors in the period to mid-June. Householders can then chose to finance the recommendations personally (perhaps including the Green Deal Cashback which is a limited fund to incentivise early adopters), or go for the Green Deal finance package repaid by a charge on future electricity bills. 5,000 Cashback vouchers have been issued, though only 1,000 paid for work done so far. But the numbers choosing to go for a Green Deal finance package were 245, most of which are still being negotiated, four have been finalised and the measures are being implemented, and none zero, are up and running.
Even last month, the minister was reiterating the ambition to help 230,000 low income households each year. But note that wording carefully. It does not specify fuel poor households, and ‘help’ can be an energy efficiency measure – an improvement, yes, but not a comprehensive makeover.
The scheme is new, the complex back-office stuff is still spluttering into life, and these factors are prayed in mitigation. But all the other toys have been thrown out of the pram, and this is the dismal place we are in.
Age UK has joined the Energy Bill Revolution, an alliance of over one hundred organisations. Together we are calling on the Government to use our carbon taxes to super-insulate our homes. Please will you add your voice to the Energy Bill Revolution petition today