A retrofit program to improve the energy efficiency of the UK's building stock is just weeks away from being soft-launched. Originally the Green Deal was set for a full launch in October but these plans have changed. I've asked around and discovered it's the training that is causing the delay.
Research by TheEcoExperts reveals only 10% of people would choose not to upgrade their homes energy efficiency rating if there was no upfront cost. This is precisely what the Green Deal makes possible. The same study shows only 14% had heard of the Green Deal, and considering much of the industry doesn't really understand the details of the legislation it's likely most of the 14% don't understand it either.
This might sound like a lack of understanding and profile but no, there hasn't been a failure of marketing here. The problem is with training. The EcoExperts research polled members of the public, not businesses. But the Green Deal is not a subsidised program, it's a market framework, and it's the industry - installers, electricians etc - that has to make the Green Deal work. This is why training is important: there is a crucial need for an accreditation process people can trust.
If this program is going to go out and work for people there needs to be a standard for all Green Deal Installers to work to. The basis for all Green Deal training is PAS2030, which recommends best practise for managing installations and providing services to customers before, during and afterwards.
Chris Hopkins, Ploughcroft MD and PAS2030 expert was interviewed recently by GreenDeal.co.uk. He said, "There is a lot of bad press [but] the reality is… the Green Deal is an excellent opportunity for business. We are in the process of becoming one of the first accredited Green Deal installers."
How do you become a Green Deal installer? The training centres waited for months for instruction from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC - Green Deal is its biggest policy). Just one example is UTN Training in the north of England, spending £200,000 enhancing its facility, only to wait for four months before being informed what on earth was going on. The reason is clear - training and accreditation is important - but the result is The Green Deal is arriving late, and many parties are already feeling a little jaded.
The National Skills Academy is an organisation that works closely with DECC. It has the expertise to take the initiative and step in: Rob Wellman, Network Operations Manager, said, "We feel assessors, installers, and providers need generic overview material from an independent source and so are working on a number of information leaflets."
And when I went to see Greg Barker, Minister for Energy and Climate Change, speak earlier this year, I recorded him say the following (a long quote but stick with it):
"We'll be waiving fees for SMEs. So no-one will have to pay to qualify to become Green Deal assessor or a Green Deal installer, in order to get registered… for the first two years. It's absolutely vital we make it as easy as possible for SMEs to get involved, but without compromising high consumer standards. It's really important that we stick to having high quality consumer standards. And a Green Deal mark of quality that consumers can trust actually, so that SMEs can compete on a level playing field with larger firms, so that consumers can see if there's a Green Deal mark of quality on the product, on the assessor, they can have exactly the same confidence in them if they're a large company, or if they're a small local firm."
Eventually the government hopes for 'street by street roll-out' to rejuvenate its housing stock. The government target of 80% carbon reduction by 2050 is ambitious. Personally I'd say it's not going to happen, but it's an ambition I can respect. The Green Deal has been born partly from this target: the housing stock increases 1-2% each year, meaning around 75% of the houses of 2050 already exists. Hence retrofit.