How do you solve a problem like .. leaky buildings? Most of the houses and offices we will be living in the year 2050 – when our carbon emissions are supposed to be 80% lower– are already built. But how to get current owners and occupiers to invest in insulation and microgeneration when the “payback” time might be counted in decades rather than years? And who has the money, in these straitened times?
The Green Deal is the Conservative Government’s financial programme to answer these questions, and people from Manchester (and beyond) got a chance today to hear from experts and ask questions about it. It’s part of a consultation that ends in January. The event was organised by the “Greening Campaign” with financial support from Carillion, which describes itself as “one of the UK’s largest independent energy services providers and a major installer of renewable technologies.” (1)
Steve Ives of the Department of Energy and Climate Change explained that the programme had three goals – to reduce energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions, to increase the thermal efficiency of properties and to save money for households and businesses.
Due to start in autumn of next year, the scheme involves a two stage process
a) individualised assessment of the ‘fabric’ (physical nature)of the building and also of the behaviour of the occupants
b) Installation – wtihout upfront costs, with repayments attached to the energy expenditure via a meter.
A “golden rule” is in place that would mean no work would be done that didn’t lead to some financial savings within the first twelve months. [6/12/2011 clarification: the payments attached to the electricity bill must be no greater than can be paid back by the estimated bill savings.]
There would be an accreditation scheme for installers, product certification and a “Green Deal code” (all learning from the problems encountered by a similar scheme in Australia). See DECC’s webpages on the Green Deal here.
Mike O’Doherty of Manchester City Council (and beyond) laid out the challenge for Greater Manchester, where of 1.2 million homes, 25% are social rented and over 900,000 were built before 1975 (when energy was cheaper, and efficiency standards low to non-existent). He raised a concern that other participants echoed – that of “reputational risk” – if there is a scandal early on, involving failure to meet promises, the entire programme could be tainted (as happened in Australia).
O’Docherty revealed that the Greater Manchester Environment Commission has commissioned Ernst & Young to help produce a report (due early next year) about what the 10 combined local authorities should be doing about energy efficiency and retrofit. The three options are “leave it to the market”, “support the market” and “create/shape the market.” (2)
Jonathan Atkinson (3) of Carbon Coop then took the stage, unfazed by the Coop missing out on a recent £100,000 for its “People’s Republic of Energy.” After musing on environmentalists’ “image problem” of being perceived as hippies, and alluding to two letters in today’s Absurder newspaper about the government’s “green” record, he asked the audience how many people had loft insulation. Most hands went up. External wall insulation? A few hands. How many people in the room were in fuel poverty (more than 10% of income on heating). Two hands. We were not a representative sample of the north of England, where roughly 30% of households are in fuel poverty (national average is roughly 25%). Atkinson then showed the Roger’s curve of uptake of new technologies, and pondered how external wall insulation could be made “sexy.” While stating that the Green Deal was “the right thing at the right time”, he foresaw problems, and used his remaining time to explain what sorts of regulatory and legislative frameworks would help community organisations like his more effective.
The final pre-break talk, on “The Finance Packages so far,” was delivered by the organiser of the consultation event, Terena Plowright. By this time, however, my brain was very full.
A question and answer session was about to start, but mercifully the scheduled break was then re-instated after some back-seat facilitation. I made my excuses and left, but a write-up of the question and answer session will be forthcoming.
(1) Carillon has told 4,5000 energy staff their jobs are at risk because the government is halving solar subsidies
(2) A report on this work is due to be presented at the December 7th meeting of the Environment Commission.
(3) I was going to take out a restraining order against Atkinson, since he pops up everywhere I go, and on this website. He then pointed out that it’s me attending events he’s speaking at…
What happens next
The consultation finishes on January 18th. Secondary legislation (the primary legislation was the Energy Act) is scheduled to go through parliament before the pollies go off on their summer jolli… sorry, return to their constituencies for intensive community involvement.
If everything goes according to plan, the scheme starts rolling out in the Autumn.
What could have been done better
Ask the audience what they already know about the Green Deal, and what experience they already have with making their houses more energy-efficient. People feel less like ego-fodder then, and the people who have experience can then be approached in the break. There are plenty of people who won’t take in everything they’re told (myself included), but if they’ve been able to get the phone number and email of someone who lives in the next town, they can do remedial energy-saving lessons over a pint. But if those “experts” in the room haven’t been able to identify themselves, how can others know who to ask?
Get a sense of who is in the room from where. This can be done in a fun way – with a low energy lightbulb as a prize for the person who has come the furthest, a free something for the people who’ve come on a bike. Again, this may help the audience “wow, I didn’t realise you only live half a mile from me! We should create a community group.”
Don’t have four talks in a row. Now matter how good they are (and some of them were very good), mere mortals don’t have the attention span for four consecutive talks. ESPECIALLY don’t then go straight into the Q and A when the agenda says there’ll be a break.
Have some basic case studies with nice round numbers to explain how person A can have this much insulation etc under the Golden Rule and so save £x, while Person B can’t because the savings would be only£y, and so ineligible. You could knock together a youtube in a day. Hell, we at MCFly will do it – our rate is a grand a day. Satisfaction guaranteed