Green Deal and the Big Society?

by Blog

On Monday 20th June 2011, Carbon Co-op attended the ‘Green Deal and the Big Society’ event at the Royal Society, London.

Organised by Department of Energy and Climate Change, with keynote addresses from Climate Change Minister Gregg Barker (link to Gregg Barker’s speech) and sustainable homes campaigner and TV presenter Kevin McCloud, it was attended by over 400 people drawn mainly from local authorities but also charities, housing associations, community organisations and private companies.

The Green Deal enables households to receive retro-fit, low-carbon refurbishment works, carried out with the upfront cost repaid via energy bills over 20 years. The so called, ‘golden rule’ ensures that the cost of any repayments never exceeds the savings from energy bills – in effect householders should reap the rewards of warmer homes without having to pay higher bills.

The conference addressed how social enterprises, co-operatives, charities and local authorities might be involved in Green Deal delivery. What came across clearly is that with over a year until Green Deal is rolled out many of the details of the scheme remain to be decided. However, there is clearly a role for organisations like the Carbon Co-op to engage in Green Deal activities, delivering added community and environmental benefits and in a way that is better able to engage householders than other private sector companies such as supermarkets and big energy providers.

Dave Alport of Birmingham City Council’s Birmingham Energy Savers (BES), Catrin Maby of social enterprise Severn Wye Energy Agency, Sue Riddlestone of Bioregional and Sally Hancox of housing association GenToo outlined their innovative Green Deal pilot projects. Key issues outlined included ensuring householders trusted the advice provided, offering simple and understandable finance options and carrying out works to a high standard. It was clear that a community-led approach should be married with a high quality assessment, a relevant and understandable report to the householder on what the assessment means and good signposting to affordable finance.

Difficulties arose in dealing with ‘heritage’ buildings, listed houses and conservation areas, buildings with infinite variations in design and fittings and managing often complex building operations.

One of the ‘details’ to be filled in relates to where income streams come from to fund the facilitation, brokerage and demand creation role community organisations are destined to play in the Green Deal. There was some talk of local authority/private sector/social enterprise partnerships, new loans/grant funds and commission-based payments.

It’s how these crucial details are answered that will define the vital role community organisations will play in Green Deal, without income the ability for organisations such as the Carbon Co-op to deliver added social and environmental benefits will ultimately be limited.

This summer Carbon Co-op are launching our own ‘Green Deal pilot’, funded through community shares and loanstock investment, we’ll be delivering retro-fit works around Greater Manchester. For more information sign up to our mailing list here.

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Some interesting notes from the day:
In their Pay As You Save pilot Severn Wye Energy Agency found that understandable energy assessment reports were particularly important for householders – they found expressing potential energy savings in kWh/m2 of house very useful.
They also didn’t operate a closed supplier list, anyone with the correct accreditation could deliver services. They found this helped them utilise small, local suppliers.
Finally, they made the observation that householders found it hard to separate retro-fit work from general improvements and that they rarely required a ‘payback time’ for works that would improve the value or comfort of their home. Often flexibility of re-payments on finance was more important than payback time, ie some people want to repay a chunk upfront or more in the future.

GenToo had a default rate of 0.72% on their Pay As You Save loans repayments, an extremely low rate.
Initial figures showed that residents were saving more energy and money than predicted when energy assessments were made – an encouraging sign that these assessments weren’t over ambitious, promising more than could be delivered.

Greg Barker indicated that new Energy Company Obligation (ECO) payments would be used to subsidise insulation, ideal for reducing the cost of retro-fit work. He also announced the Green Deal would feature a UK-wide database showing which houses had signed up to the green deal and which had not.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 at 2:06 pm and is filed under Events.