Energy saving dogged by uncertainty

Turn on the central heating, plug those draughts, layer up the insulation, winter’s coming. This should be the prime time for marketing services and products for energy saving and renewable energy to homeowners.

But not this year. Since the conservative government came to power it has ended the Green Deal, which supported home energy efficiency improvements, and rolled back renewable energy policies, including the Feed In Tariff, which supported the installation of solar panels.

The Green Deal had struggled to win over the public, but the alacrity of the changes has caused the business plans of service providers in the sector to unravel. As a result, in recent weeks Birmingham council has had to end its Birmingham Energy Savers initiative with contractor Carillion, which had planned to provide 60,000 homes with more efficient heating and insulation. That has been followed by announcements that retrofit specialist Mark Group and environmental consultant Climate Energy have gone into administration.

Job losses have been announced, and more could follow as companies continue scaling back their operations to equip them for the new post Green Deal business environment.

While the energy efficiency sector has struggled to establish its products and services in this difficult market, industry and political minds have been exploring how home owning ‘able to pays’ can be encouraged to spend their hard-earned cash on making their properties more energy efficient. Would council tax discount on more energy efficient properties provide the best incentive…or Stamp Duty Land Tax?

For the consumer, a good starting point would be certainty. The consumer wants certainty that a contractor who comes to do a survey will be around long enough to carry out the installation, and to deal with any glitches in the ensuing months. They want certainty that a government initiative will endure to pay out on its promises. They want certainty that the product or service they are buying will live up to its claims and deliver energy savings. And they want to feel certain that they are doing the right thing.

Many consumers feel those certainties are sadly lacking right now. So even though winter is coming those able-to-pays might just be opting for a new kitchen over energy saving this year.

One thought on “Energy saving dogged by uncertainty

  1. The recent failures of Mark Group and Climate Energy coupled with the pain being suffered by so many others in the industry show how much damage government can do when they intervene badly. The Green Deal and associated initiatives have been based on a government desire to create a market (or perhaps they would prefer “to stimulate a market”) with heavy intervention. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as they realise that with the heavy intervention comes the responsibility to deliver stability.

    Whatever the blueprint for the future of energy retrofit it must be accompanied by a commitment to allow businesses the confidence to invest without the threat of “another good idea” arriving to turn everyone’s plans on their heads. Equally the consumer needs to understand that they should get on with addressing energy wastage without thinking that if they hold off then someone will offer to do it for nothing.

    Sean McLaughlin
    MD Matilda’s Planet


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