Monday, June 06, 2011

Microgeneration may be eligible for £10,000 Green Deal support

Photovoltaic panels on council houses in The London Borough of Ealing installed by the Council this year when replacing the roofs
The Green Deal, the Government's flagship scheme for giving buildings £10,000 of energy-saving improvements, will include microgeneration technologies like heat pumps and solar power.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker has published further details of how the Green Deal scheme will work, with a draft list of measures that the scheme will permit to be financed; a Green Deal Code to protect consumers; and details of the new Energy Company Obligation (ECO) to tackle fuel poverty.

Businesses as well as householders will be able to access up to £10,000 upfront to pay for energy efficiency work, repaying the costs through savings on energy bills from next year.

Consumers will get BSI quality assurance from a Green Deal Code of Practice which will cover providers and installers, and a Green Deal advice line will be set up.

The principle of the Green Deal is being called The Golden Rule, under which expected savings from measures will repay the costs over 20-25 years. The cost-benefit levels for each measure are still being calculated.

Consumer groups are welcoming the proposals. Audrey Gallacher, head of energy at Consumer Focus, said: "Particularly welcome moves are the introduction of an independent advice line and more robust complaints handling and redress measures. This should not only help consumers make informed decisions on products and services, but mean support is there if things go wrong.

"The Green Deal will be sold through a spread of providers from energy companies to DIY chains."

Confirming what I've observed myself before, Richard Lloyd, CEO of Which?, cautioned that: "Our latest research into cavity wall insulation uncovered inadequate inspections and poor advice. For this scheme to be a success, Green Deal assessors need to be held to the highest standards. £10,000 represents a major investment for most people, so the Government must ensure that the financing of the scheme is fair and good value for customers."

The £10,000 is not to be seen as a cap, however.

"Central to the scheme is the fact the repayments have to be lower than energy savings," said a DECC spokeswoman. "As long as the likely savings from a package of measures are more than the costs, the project will be financed. There is no cap."

This is great news for the most energy-inefficient buildings, for example in the rented sector, which could benefit from a host of much-needed measures.

The eligible measures

An industry-wide Call for Evidence and Literature Review on the costs and benefits of a range of measures was issued in March 2011, and the results are not yet in, so the published list is indicative only, but it includes the following:
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning: Condensing boilers; Heating controls; Under-floor heating; Heat recovery systems; Mechanical ventilation (non-domestic); Flue gas recovery devices

  • Building fabric: Cavity wall insulation; Loft insulation; Flat roof insulation; Internal wall insulation; External wall insulation; Draught proofing; Floor insulation; Heating system insulation (cylinder, pipes); Energy efficient glazing and doors

  • Lighting: Lighting fittings; Lighting controls

  • Water heating: Innovative hot water systems; Water efficient taps and showers

  • Microgeneration: Ground and air source heat pumps; Solar thermal; Solar PV; Biomass boilers; Micro-CHP.

When making an inspection of a building, Green Deal Assessors will draw from this list of eligible measures to make property-specific recommendations.

The assessor will then work out whether the estimated annual saving is expected to be equal to or greater than the expected annual repayment costs. If it is, then the work can go ahead.

Certain measures could have an extra upfront subsidy - via the Energy Company Obligation. Alternatively a householder could choose to pay a top-up to bring down the repayment cost.

As an example, the documents cite that external wall insulation could pay for itself in 30 years based on an installation cost of £7,600. With a subsidy, the repayment period could be significantly reduced and brought within usual finance periods of 20 to 25 years.

The list has been welcomed by the industry. "It's encouraging to have as wide a list of technologies as possible included," said John Alker of the Green Building Council.

He added that as the scheme allows people to top up the Green Deal financing with their own money, and includes microgeneration technologies, this would encourage them to invest in upgrades.

Friends of the Earth's Dave Powell commented that adding microgeneration technologies to the Deal could make it more attractive, but it might reduce the amount of money available for insulation and draughtproofing, which is always more cost-effective.

The Government has realised that often it only makes sense to install a measure while other renovations are occurring, such as under-floor heating, or to add an additional measure to a package, such as installing heating controls when fitting an upgraded boiler. Further guidance will therefore detail the effects of sequencing.

It is not yet clear how, if the Green Deal will cover microgeneration, it will fit in with the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) - kicking in at the same time for domestic properties - and Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) for renewable electricity.

The Energy Company Obligation

The ECO will make sure that cases will still receive attention where the Golden Rule will not work but where energy efficiency improvements are needed.

For these cases, it will mandate energy service companies and utilities to meet the needs of the lower income and most vulnerable first, followed in priority by those properties needing the next most cost-effective measures that do not meet the Golden Rule for example, solid wall insulation (SWI).

This is intended to boost the supply chain for SWI, which is still relatively small, and bring prices down, which will help the measure meet the Golden Rule.

The ECO's funding 'pot' is expected to provide between £1bn and £2bn a year, but will inevitably result in higher general fuel prices.

ECO support is intended to be integrated into the Green Deal framework so that where they combine to deliver improvements, the consumer will just see one seamless package on offer from a Green Deal provider.

Suppliers and Green Deal providers will therefore need to work together to provide an offer to the consumer that comprises the optimum mix of support between Green Deal finance and ECO subsidy.

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