When in 2010 Chris Huhne then Minister for Energy and Climate Change, launched the Green Deal he said, As well as being good for the environment;
“The Green Deal also represents a significant opportunity for businesses. Retailers, tradespeople, energy companies and investors will have access to a huge and growing market, with implications for jobs and skills across the supply chain – and across the country, with no regional bias.
We predict that the supply chain could support 100,000 jobs within five years, spread across the United Kingdom. By making our homes and businesses more energy efficient, we can cut our carbon emissions and make real progress toward our 2050 emissions reduction target.”
Now hindsight is 20/20 so the ambition to take just a small part of a promised £10 billion market enough to support a dozen people in a specialist co-operative business did not seem an excessive aim. I even bought some shares in it so I can understand why people invested. But no one realised just how big a disaster the Green Deal would turn out to be.
From the beginning of the coalition it was a key policy. They said the Green Deal is the Government’s “flagship piece of legislation, which will deliver energy efficiency to homes and buildings across the land”. It is expected to result in net business costs of an estimated £1.3 billion a year (ultimately reclaimed through everyone’s energy bills) and around £14 billion of private sector investment over the next decade.
This fanfare drew many firms to seek out the necessary accreditation to be Green Deal assessors. By the end of November last year there were 314 firms engaging 2,855 individual assessors. So a small industry was being created to deliver this green deal. The problem however is not the green part it is the deal part. Frankly it is not a very good deal.
The whole process is incredibly convoluted which puts your energy bills up for a saving that is too little over too long a period.
Whilst by the end of November 101,851 green deal assessments had been lodged and there were 1,478 green deal plans in progress but only 458 had been completed. Not exactly a revolution. Hundreds of firms and thousands of advisers had been sent on a wild goose chase. At the end of last November there were six times as many green deal assessors as there were satisfied customers.
This brings me back to the Energy Saving Co-operative. I am sure this was the right idea. There is a low level of trust in this area which thanks to this botched green deal is now even lower. I am sure householders would have had more confidence in a co-operative business than a purely profit seeking enterprise. But there is simply not enough business and the Co-op is being voluntarily would up.
No business can survive without customers. Even if they had bagged all the 458 who completed the Green Deal it would not have had enough to sustain them let alone 300 businesses. Now there are double grazing providers, loft and cavity wall insulators, new boiler fitters and numerous other trades people wondering where their next job is going to come from. Rather than creating thousands of jobs this disastrous debt laden policy is destroying jobs.
Chris Huhne launched the policy at the Liberal Democrats Spring Conference in 2010, "The Green Deal will be a revolution. The first scheme of its kind in the developed world. The most ambitious energy-saving plan ever put forward. A once-and-for-all refit that will make every home in Britain ready for a low-carbon future."
This will now just be added to that long list of Liberal Democrat broken promises. Huhne was later to be led off in disgrace and imprisoned for lying about speeding it is a pity that charge could not be extended for lying about other things.
My suspicion is that this scheme was sunk by the Treasury who have no interest in helping people to spend less money. It is no secret that George Osborne has been manoeuvring to undermine the Government’s green agenda as weak as it is.
The real tragedy then is not for the staff and directors of the energy saving co-op, one of whom Chris Herries will now lose her place on the Board of Co-ops UK, sad as that is or that investors who will lose their money. All business investment is risk capital. The real tragedy is that the country really does needs an effective Green Deal. We really do need to reduce energy costs, keep people warm and to refocus our energy industry towards conservation and renewable generation. That is where the future jobs will be and that possible future is what the government have turned their backs on.