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The Grey Hairs of the Green Deal

Posted: 25th July 2013

Mark Wilson MCIAT
Building Design Expert

This government flagship looked a winner on the drawing board, showed great promise during construction. But it stalled in the slipway because someone had forgotten to secure its finance arrangements, and subsequently launched into a sleepy backwater with barely a ripple.

Government ministers trumpeted that this was always the plan, and that the ‘energy marketers’ would man the tugs to guide this flagship out to sea. Six months on and one cannot help but wonder that for the price of a short length of rope, a bottle of champagne and some celebrity trumpeting; would we now be cruising at top speed in open water?

Maybe not, but the fact that it was never an appetiser on the menu draws questions of judgment. I did a lot of research in the run up to the first false dawn, and indeed spoke to many people, and came to the consistent conclusion that if the government struggled to ‘give away’ insulation under the banners of CERT and CESP, what made them think we were now going to happily pay for it?

We are several months down the Green estuary, but the outlook remains a very dark grey. Statistics released at the start of July gave us 14 million homes, 19,000 green deal assessments made, and 4, yes Four, GD implementations. Whilst ministers hedged for a while; common sense began to prevail, with an announcement that they would look at better ways to incentivise the offering, and guess what – we are still waiting.

At least they got what the problem was. Take a step backwards and ask “what’s in it for me?” – the home owner that is. The altruistic mindset was clearly not registering a plus sign, meaning that just a carbon saving gain for the UK, and little else until the GD loan was paid off, was not enough. Perhaps they were right; the ‘Golden Rule’ offered no financial advantage other than enough to pay off the loan, and by the time it was paid the technology that had been originally installed would be out of date, and probably well under-performing by the technology standards of that day to come.

So where do we head from here?

It’s a precarious irony that although the government have frequently reminded us that as birth parents to the Green Deal, they are more than happy to relinquish the nurturing, and caring through the accelerated ageing of it’s teenage years, to the foster parents that are the “Market Forces”. Yet, they have now exercised their right to bring it back to their comfortable home for a haircut, wash behind the ears and some freshly starched underwear. One can’t help but imagine the next step, after a good talking to of course, as a tousle of the hair and a comforting hand on the shoulder before being sent off down the garden path to cut a dash in the world once more.

It is not at all helpful, but the industry has been driven to cynical ledge. A flagship programme has tripped over the starting blocks; since the demise of CERT and CESP, cavity wall insulation installations are down at one quarter of one percent from a year ago; one in four insulation installers no longer have their jobs; six months after a delayed start due to another oversight on passing of legislative powers to enable Green Deal financing, there still remain significant issues in securing the money to carry out installation work, and at the beginning of July 2013 the first Green Deal provider has been put into receivership. Does anyone detect a trend?

After lifting the lid, that is just what’s floating on the surface. Lurking in the depths of this cauldron the government have created a wounded beast that cannot be abandoned and left to die, but are also struggling to secure the industrial strength sticking plaster needed to stop the wounds from bursting. There will be heavy scarring, and there may be more casualties as our flagship scrapes its hull along this mud bank. There is open water in sight, if only because the principles around which the Green Deal has been constructed are, in themselves, robust. However, a contribution towards a national reduction in carbon emissions was never likely to cut it with your average consumer. Incentivisation anyone?

Contributor: Mark Wilson MCIAT started his career in January 1985 as a member of the Society of Architectural and Associated Technicians, and now represents himself under the heading – Chartered Architectural Technologist.

He has run his own practice for the past 13 years, having spent the previous time working for various Architects and Developers on a wide variety of projects. You can find about more about him via or Twitter