By Global Action Plan intern, Paul Bosworth
Whats the problem?
Families across the UK are experiencing ongoing price hikes in their energy bills, contributing to rising rates of fuel poverty as people struggle to afford to heat their homes properly. A 2011 report by Consumer Focus showed that 5 million households in England and Wales alone, or 1 in 4, were living in fuel poverty. This is up from 2 million households in the whole of the UK in 2003 - the year from which rates have steadily risen. At the same time, British buildings are amongst the most inefficient and expensive to heat in Europe, accounting for a whopping 43% of our country’s overall carbon emissions in 2009.
In spite of this, demand for energy efficient equipment in family homes remains low, as many people simply cannot afford the upfront costs. Furthermore, a lack of choice in suitable suppliers means people remain uncertain about the standard to which work on their house will be carried out. The government wants to change this in order to give householders cheaper energy bills, lift millions out of fuel poverty and reduce our country’s contribution to dangerous climate change.
What’s being done to help my family and our home, eh?
This year the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will be launching it’s flagship green scheme named ‘The Green Deal’ in order to radically increase the uptake of energy efficient equipment in households across the country - including yours! Its the most ambitious household renovation project since World War II, and is going to help your family lower its energy costs whilst helping you do your part to reduce carbon emissions and save the environment.
The Green Deal works by making it possible for private firms and suppliers to install a whole manner of energy saving equipment in your home such as double glazing, loft/wall insulation, as well as renewables (including solar panels, biomass boilers, micro-CHP and ground and air source heat pumps) at no upfront cost to your family. This is because the work done is paid for incrementally through instalments on household energy bills. And if you move house, the new occupier automatically takes over the debt, because the benefits of a more efficient and cheaper heating system have now transferred from you to them. Therefore, the money owed is not personal debt, but tied to the energy meter - making usual considerations such as credit-worthiness unnecessary.
An official body will protect consumers from cowboy builders and opportunistic energy firms. Suppliers will have to be properly accredited so your family can trust the work being done, and this will be supported by a quality mark and insurance-backed warranties to protect against rogue traders. The government are also putting together a framework in order to guarantee that the installation costs never outweigh the amount your family saves on its bills. This is called the golden rule, which promises that: “the expected financial savings must be equal to or greater than the costs attached to the energy bill”.
If you’ve moved out of home you’ll be pleased to know that the Green Deal will also be available to those who rent as well as home owners. Tenants will repay the cost of measures through their energy bill savings, enjoying warmer properties without increased fuel payments. Furthermore, the scheme will offer landlords a real opportunity to invest in the energy efficiency of their properties at no up-front cost to themselves, making their properties more attractive to rent and more eco-friendly.
The government wants to see more collaborative working - not just between Green Deal providers and local authorities - but neighbouring councils, charities, voluntary organisations and community groups, all getting involved to come up with innovative solutions to rolling out energy efficiency on a street by street basis. Global Action Plan is working to capitalise on its close ties with businesses, communities and young people to make sure that everyone can obtain maximum benefit from the Green Deal, especially those who at most risk from fuel poverty and rising energy prices.
So what does this mean for me specifically as a young person with a face and a name?
“The Green Deal presents a great opportunity for the young people of this country. The Government is strongly committed to improving the skills and employment prospects of our young people. The expansion of the market through the Green Deal will provide excellent opportunities for them to up-skill through apprenticeships and training schemes so they are ready to meet the challenge of this new job market.” Greg Barker, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change.
Rolling out the Green Deal will require a huge increase in skilled workers who are able to carry out everything from home installations to compliance work. The Department for Energy and Climate Change predicts that the Green Deal will catalyse £14bn of investment over the next decade, and support up to 250,000 jobs at its peak – including, more specifically, at least 65,000 insulation and construction jobs by 2015.
Moreover, the government plans to use the Green Deal to introduce thousands of apprenticeships across the UK, giving young people the skills and experience they need at a time when youth unemployment has reached almost 1 in 4 people aged 16 to 24. This should come as good news to those left jaded by the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove’s recent announcement that thousands of vocational qualifications are to be stripped out of school league tables, arguing that the old system encouraged young people to take courses that led ‘”nowhere”. The proposed Green Deal measures relevant to young people so far include:
- A joint effort between the Department for Business and Department for Education to provide sufficient funding to train at least 1000 Green Deal apprentices aged 16 and over to meet employer demand.
- Sector Skills Councils (specifically Asset Skills, ConstructionSkills and SummitSkills) will work with employers to design new apprenticeship frameworks and revise existing ones, in order for workers to be trained or re-trained with the skills that the Green Deal will require.
- The Department for Energy and Climate Change will set out new standards for Green Deal installers, working with employers to encourage them to take on new trainees and up-skill their existing staff. DECC will also offer concessions on Green Deal installer registration fees for those organisations which take on young people as workers
The above package of measures hopes to teach apprentices about new green technologies and make them experts in a range of areas including cavity and solid wall insulation and new energy efficient heating systems. However, such details are still being revised as the whole Green Deal is finished off – the stakeholder consultation only concluded earlier this month, meaning it will still be a while before we can know for certain what this ambitious national scheme will mean for ourselves and our families.
The Treasury has approved £200 million for families that take up the Green Deal in it’s first year, when it begins in October 2012. For more information, see the DECC website www.decc.gov.uk or email us