The power of four

The Government’s flagship Green Deal programme, which aims to refurbish the UK’s ageing housing stock, begins this month, but its success is far from assured. Neil Schofield, Head of Government and External Affairs at Worcester, Bosch Group, identifies four key areas that will make or break it.

We stand on the cusp of a revolution. It may not feel like and there are certainly enough naysayers out there who will gladly tell you that it is going to crash and burn, but the Green Deal, the revolution in Britain’s ageing housing stock, is nearly upon us.
However, success is far from assured, not least because the Green Deal requires a complete change of mindset on the part of the British consumer if it is to work. The concept of linking loan repayments to energy savings and the loan staying with the house rather than the individual is so alien to the average homeowner that many refuse to believe the British public will embrace it.
Four hurdles
To my mind, there are four key hurdles that the Green Deal has to overcome if it is to succeed. Firstly, heating measures must become an integral part of the Green Deal. In fact, I would go as far as to say that heating is central to the scheme’s success.  Boiler replacements can provide an important lead generator for the take up of a wider range of energy efficiency measures, but only if the UK’s installer base is encouraged to play a full part.
Heating installers play a key role as a route to market in the owner occupier sector. The vast majority of the 1.5 million boiler installations in the UK each year are carried out by 60,000 businesses of all sizes, which between them employ about 90,000 skilled operatives.
However, these installers currently have little knowledge or interest in the Green Deal. There is a danger already that the Green Deal is, in the minds of the UK’s installer base, a scheme run by the big players such as the major energy companies. Unfortunately, the British public do not take advice from our energy suppliers.
Instead, the British public turns to their installer, and it is here that the opportunity lies. If the installer is on-board, he or she does not have to do anything more than offer the homeowner a deal along the lines of – “I can get you £500 off this boiler, but only if you get loft and cavity wall insulation within the next six months.”
Stimulate demand
Secondly, we need a simple cashback scheme that would be an effective incentive to help stimulate consumer demand that the installer would not be able to ignore and, in turn, spark the sort of conversation I outlined above. The basic idea would be for the heating installer to leave a voucher (for example, for £400) with the consumer that could be redeemed if they subsequently have a Green Deal assessment undertaken within an agreed period of time and also carry out some of the energy efficiency measures recommended.

We need a simple cashback scheme that would be an effective incentive to help stimulate consumer demand.

The heating industry is prepared to deliver the necessary training to the installer sector, but many believe that this would have added influence if it was backed by the Government. One example of our ability to train installers was the 2005 amendment to Building Regulations, when the industry, working in partnership with the Government, the Energy Saving Trust and Sector Skills Councils, successfully developed an accredited training package in condensing boilers and delivered this to approximately 45,000 installers.
Different approach
Thirdly, the private rented sector is also an important market for the Green Deal but may need a different approach. Some regulation may be helpful, and the possibility of extending the current scope of the annual landlords’ gas safety inspection to require that open-flued boilers are replaced on the basis of improved safety is worthy of serious consideration. These open-flued products are also the least energy efficient boilers and are generally within the ‘F’ and ‘G’ bands. Discussions with DECC are on-going with regard to open-flued boilers at this time, and I remain hopeful that we can reach some sort of agreement.
Improved labelling
Finally, better energy labelling could provide an effective stimulus to the Green Deal. At an informal meeting recently, EU Member States agreed to proceed with the Commission’s latest proposals as a matter of urgency, which include a UK proposal for an installer label to supplement the product label. The view of many in the heating industry is that this could be a key step forward because it could form the basis of a technology-neutral means of increasing minimum heating efficiency standards within future revisions of Building Regulations.
I personally do believe that the Green Deal can make an enormous contribution to reinvigorating the UK’s housing stock and give the heating industry a much-needed boost.  However, there are obstacles that need to be overcome and opportunities that must not be missed. Most importantly, if we are to genuinely improve the energy efficiency of UK homes, the UK’s installer base must get involved.
[tabs type=”horizontal”][tabs_head][tab_title][/tab_title][/tabs_head][tab]Green Deal – The Figures
45 – The number of improvements covered by the scheme.
60,000 – How many jobs the initiative is expected to create.
£10 billion – The additional revenue predicted to be generated by 2022.[/tab][/tabs]
[author image=”” ]Neil Schofield is Head of Government and External Affairs at Worcester, Bosch Group. He has been involved in the heating industry throughout his career, starting at British Gas before before moving on to Worcester in 1987. More recently Neil has become the manufacturer’s ‘Man at the Ministry’, leading Worcester on industry legislation, ensuring the company is at the forefront of providing support for any new changes. [/author]