Since January when the Green Deal first launched, there have been 44,479 assessments. Of these, only 36 homeowners have decided to finalise loans, and of these 36 none have yet installed any measures. A further 270 homeowners are in the process of finalising their loans, while 6,244 have used the cash-back vouchers to significantly reduce the installation costs, covering the rest with self finance. With such figures it is clear that there is indeed demand for the energy efficiency measures under the Green Deal, but given that DECC predicted 10,000 would take up the scheme by the end of this year, these figures are worrying. Why has this happened? It may be because the government have, up until now, adopted a passive approach to the scheme, waiting for homeowners to come forward. However, they seem to be moving away from this and becoming proactive. Following DECC’s commitment of £23 million to help fund the Green Deal in core cities, £20 million has now been added for street by street visits, and they have given another £20 million to support a scheme named Warm Up North. Aside from this new sense of initiative, the government have also revised initial predictions, aiming for 20,000 to sign Green Deals by 2014.
Under the new street-by-street initiative, Green Deal assessors will go door-to-door informing homeowners about the scheme. Specific areas that are most in need of energy efficiency installations will be attended to first by working with local councils, who will know who may need what. A Green Deal Provider Forum is also being set up to make the retrofit industry more transparent and responsive to concerns from those within it, which should help to make the scheme more reliable and attentive to homeowner needs.
As always, there are potential problems with this proactive approach. Going to homeowners could cause them to opt out completely instead of opting in independently and choosing between providers, which is a core principle of the scheme as it would encourage competitive pricing. But the Committee of Climate Change expects this extension to encourage uptake, presumably because of the numerous benefits the Green Deal has to offer homeowners.
Logistically, there are advantages to this new approach. Companies will find it cheaper to install solid wall insulation, for example, across neighbouring properties rather than individually across long distances. And small-to-medium sized businesses can work with local authorities to effectively identify potential customers, so this could work well for providers. In addition, what the passive approach to the scheme did not encourage by its lack of uptake was positive social pressure. The new approach, by more directly encouraging uptake within communities, may produce ‘neighbourhood warmth’ as people will see those that live near them benefiting from energy efficiency installations, in turn encouraging them to do the same. A resident in Brighton and Hove recently took out a Green Deal loan that will put his property’s EPC rating to an A+, which he noted made his neighbours ‘envious’.
If all goes according to plan, then, DECC have stated that when the money is exhausted under this extension, councils can apply for more funding next year. And finally, the benefits of the Green Deal are to be more widely publicised, which could give to a much-needed push to the scheme’s marketing.