Is it deal or no deal for the Government’s lat­est eco scheme?

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Jonathon Wingfield

DE­SPITE the rel­a­tively soft launch of the Government’s lat­est en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tive, there are signs that the Green Deal is be­gin­ning to take off. At least that was the im­pres­sion given by Peter, an in­de­pen­dent as­ses­sor who vis­ited my house re­cently. It ap­pears he has back-to-back ap­point­ments well into next month and was as en­thu­si­as­tic as a time-share sales­man. But is the Green Deal the real deal?

Es­sen­tially, the Green Deal seeks to help peo­ple in­stall en­ergy ef­fi­cient mea­sures with­out in­cur­ring any up­front costs. The the­ory is that costs are paid over time by the sav­ings made in adopt­ing the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency mea­sures. The re­pay­ments for the green loan are then added to the en­ergy bill.

The start­ing point is the as­sess­ment of cur­rent en­ergy per­for­mance in your home. This cal­cu­lates po­ten­tial sav­ings achiev­able over a pe­riod of time based on your cur­rent us­age. This en­ables a Green Deal provider to pre­pare quo­ta­tions for un­der­tak­ing the work. Homeowners can then take out a Green Deal Loan at a favourable rate of in­ter­est. The provider ar­ranges the fi­nance and will even project man­age the work, agree­ing with elec­tric­ity com­pa­nies how much is taken and when from your bill. The golden rule is that the amount you pay should be less than or equal to the sav­ings that can be made. The list of po­ten­tial en­ergy sav­ing im­prove­ments is ex­ten­sive and fre­quently ex­pen­sive. How­ever, com­plex heat re­cov­ery sys­tems and biomass boil­ers aside, the re­al­ity is most peo­ple will be look­ing at the usual sus­pects we all know about but have never got round to in­stalling. Typ­i­cally th­ese in­clude new con­dens­ing boil­ers, cav­ity wall and loft in­su­la­tion, draught proof­ing and en­ergy ef­fi­cient light fit­tings.

So what are the down­sides of this deal? Firstly, the Green Deal charge stays with the prop­erty so if you move house the new owner will have to take this over. In the­ory, as they are ben­e­fit­ing from re­duced costs this shouldn’t be a prob­lem. How­ever, the ex­tent to which this could af­fect sales still has to be seen. There may be some prospec­tive pur­chasers who feel that the cost of loft in­su­la­tion is re­flected in the ask­ing price so why do they have to fund it af­ter they’ve bought the house?

Although it is still pos­si­ble to switch tar­iffs and sup­pli­ers, in the short term there may be some smaller com­pa­nies that will not have the ad­min­is­tra­tion fa­cil­i­ties to col­lect ad­di­tional pay­ments. Fur­ther­more, ad­vice changes over time as cheaper, more ef­fi­cient new prod­ucts come onto the mar­ket. For ex­am­ple, triple glaz­ing is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar and will be com­mon place in 10 years.

If you can af­ford it, then it may be bet­ter paying up front for the im­prove­ments, par­tic­u­larly as fuel prices are set to rise. Low in­ter­est rates mean that it is also worth look­ing into re-mort­gag­ing rather than adopt­ing green deal fi­nance.

So back to my new friend Peter. Whilst I ad­mired his en­thu­si­asm, it seems that based on my cur­rent en­ergy us­age and the com­plex­ity of car­ry­ing out his sched­ule of im­prove­ments, I’m look­ing at a pay­back pe­riod in ex­cess of 18 years. I know that this scheme is about more than sav­ing money and we all need to do our bit to re­duce car­bon emis­sions. It’s just that I’m not sure I want to buy into all the red tape.

Cyn­i­cism aside, the re­al­ity is the Government has to make this ini­tia­tive work. With more than 3.5m peo­ple in fuel poverty and car­bon re­duc­tions tar­gets to be met, it’s here to stay. How­ever, the num­ber of peo­ple who progress be­yond the ini­tial ap­praisal re­mains to be seen. It’s pro­vid­ing work for the rapidly ex­pand­ing army of as­ses­sors, but if you can stretch to dou­ble glaz­ing, put in more loft in­su­la­tion and stick draught ex­clud­ers on your front door then I’d just get on with it.

Jonathon Wingfield is man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Acan­thus WSM Ar­chi­tects, Leeds, www. acan­thuswsm.com

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