Media reports cast doubt over the future of the Green Deal as the government prepares to scrap its plans to implement mandatory Consequential Improvements.
The proposed consequential improvements that would require homeowners to make their properties more energy efficient when carrying out home improvements may now be scrapped.
The Department for Communities & Local Government consultation on the proposals is due to end next week, and while no official statement has yet been made, without the Prime Minister’s support it is now expected the plans will be rejected.
The Guardian newspaper reported that a government source said David Cameron is not against the Green Deal or the measures themselves, but wants them to remain voluntary.
“It is out for consultation, but the Prime Minister is opposed to it, and it will not become policy. It is not fair to ordinary people trying to improve their homes," the source was quoted as saying.
This comment has led people in the industry to question the overall future of the Green Deal, with rumours surfacing that top Conservative ministers are opposed to the £14 billion scheme.
The consequential improvements scheme meant that any homeowner intending to carry out home improvements would also have to install other unrelated measures at the same time, to improve their home’s carbon footprint.
Energy efficiency measures worth an additional 10% of the cost of the main works would be required in the way of loft or cavity insulation, upgrading a boiler or adding better heating controls.
The extra money spent would benefit local contractors, be paid for through cheap finance provided by the Green Deal and repaid through subsequent lower energy bills.
But the government source said: "The idea that people are going to be forced to improve their energy efficiency or install a new boiler because they want to extend their garage or make their house better is not going to happen. It is not policy now.”
As the measures will no longer be compulsory, it is doubtful people will go to the extra expense of installing energy efficient improvements they weren’t already planning for.
It also puts pressure on government and industry as they try to reach the carbon emissions reduction target of a further 13% by 2020.
The Department for Communities & Local Government were positive when the consultation was launched in January, saying a typical home could save as much as £150 a year in energy bills from the improvements made.
As the consultation draws to a close, a department spokesperson told HVP: “We will now consider the consultation responses carefully and announce the way forward in due course.”
Lib Dem communities minister Andrew Stunell said that as a quarter of UK carbon emissions produced each year come from homes, it is “vital we get to grips with energy efficiency to tackle the problem”.
About 45% of carbon dioxide emissions come from buildings, mainly from space heating and cooling, water heating, lighting and other fixed systems, all energy uses that are covered by the building regulations.
Consequential improvements are already required for buildings over 1000m² that undergo improvements, but this excludes most homes.
Further to the opposition of the consequential improvements, the Sunday Telegraph has reported Conservative Party resistance to the Green Deal scheme itself on the grounds that it was adding to people’s energy bills.
The paper reported that Conservative ministers, including housing minister Grant Shapps, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, communities secretary Eric Pickles and employment minister Chris Grayling, thought the Green Deal should be scrapped.
Under the Green Deal, millions of households will be encouraged to install energy saving home improvements such as loft insulation or solar panels, with no initial cost.
While the scheme will see a surcharge on household energy bills, the work would be funded with loans of up to £10,000 to be paid back through the bills while households benefit from the resulting energy savings.
The scheme is in fact expected to reduce household bills over time by making homes more energy efficient.
The Heating & Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) have described the suggestion that the Green Deal be axed as 'madness' and say it would be an unwise move, sending out a wrong signal to consumers that ‘green measures’ are a waste of time.
Roger Webb, director of HHIC, said: “We have been working closely with the government in regards to the Green Deal and fully support the way it could change the way we think about energy efficiency. Changing the way people view saving energy in the home is crucially important not only for the planet but how we can help to keep our bills lower and our homes warmer.
“Times have changed and will continue to change and consumers need to take some responsibility for our future.” he added. “The Green Deal does have the possibility to make a real difference in the near future and it seems very premature to give up on a scheme that has not even got off the ground.”
The Department for Energy & Climate Change has denied any plans to get rid of the Green Deal and climate change minister Greg Barker dismissed the reports as ‘bonkers’ on twitter.
However, Lib Dem sources similarly denied that the plans for consequential improvement were off the table just days before a government source revealed the Prime Minister’s opposition.