The Tories have taken advantage of parliamentary recess to axe efficiency plans away from scrutiny
Today David Cameron has again boasted that his is the ‘greenest government ever’. The timing could not have been worse, as the government announced yesterday that it was scrapping funds for the Green Deal, its flagship energy programme.
The initiative, introduced by the coalition in 2013, was designed to incentivise greener homes. People could introduce green technology into their homes – such as double glazing and insulation – at no upfront cost, paying back the cost through energy bills. It also had a scheme offering cashback to householders who introduced certain energy-efficient features.
From the start, the Green Deal was poorly managed and uptake was disastrously low. Former energy minister Greg Barker initially said he expected an uptake of 10,000 in the first twelve months; in reality under 2,000 homes had measures installed under the scheme in that time.
The Department for Energy and Climate also admitted that it had spent over £3m on advertising and marketing in the first year.
And in June of last year, the government announced plans to boost the low level of uptake by introducing a Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (the cashback scheme). But by the end of July ministers had been forced to close the fund when the money ran out.
This meant that some customers who had already paid for an assessment and expected it to be refunded under the cashback scheme were left £100 out of pocket.
So, clearly, the Green Deal was far from perfect. But the idea was right; many of us live in homes which literally leak heat, meaning we have to use more and more energy to heat them up. Fixing this would not only put us on the path to a greener economy, it would help tackle fuel poverty and prevent excess winter deaths.
To scrap the initiative without any hint of a replacement in mind highlights the government’s dangerously half-hearted approach to energy efficiency, especially as it comes just weeks after the zero-carbon homes policy was axed.
Announcing the scrapping of the Green Deal, energy secretary Amber Rudd said:
“We are on the side of hardworking families and businesses – which is why we cannot continue to fund the green deal.”
If the government’s recent tax changes somehow haven’t convinced everyone how little they actually care for hardworking families, remember that saving energy is by far the cheapest and simplest way of cutting carbon emissions. Any delay in helping households save energy, and any savings gained by the delay, are effectively false economy.
To suggest, as Rudd did today, that scrapping the only half-formed plan the government has to help people save energy is going to save us money is both misleading and depressingly short sighted.
Green MP Caroline Lucas called the decision ‘cowardly’ as it was announced after parliament broke for recess and therefore will evade scrutiny and demands for a replacement policy. Currently all we have is a vague promise from the Department of a ‘new value-for-money approach’.
If David Cameron wants the UK to be take seriously at this year’s climate summit in Paris, he’ll need to sharpen up that plan pretty quickly.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.