Critics say Coalition's Green Deal is no solution to curse of fuel poverty

Energy efficiency is key in cutting the bills. But who pays?

The Department of Energy & Climate Change launched the Government's flagship energy-efficiency scheme on Monday. It's the latest attempt to battle the growing problem of fuel poverty, but critics accuse government policy of only making the situation worse.

The new so-called Green Deal allows homeowners to pay for energy-efficient home improvements through expected savings on their energy bills. Millions of homes do not have double-glazing, for instance, which helps to cut down wasted energy and has a knock-on effect of reducing heating bills. Other improvements that can cut bills and reduce fuel poverty include draught-proofing or insulating homes or putting in a more modern, efficient condensing boiler.

But critics of the new scheme challenge the Government's claims that homeowners will end up saving money in the long term despite having to repay the cost of their home improvements through their electricity bills.

Luciana Berger MP, the shadow Climate Change minister, warned: "Because of sky-high interest rates, hidden charges and penalty payments, the reality for most people will be that the Green Deal ends up costing them more than they save."

In fact many people may be better off arranging finance elsewhere as the Green Deal could lumber them with a debt that could be detrimental and put off future buyers, warned Alan Milstein, of the Residential Property Surveyors Association. "With early repayment penalties and the uncertainty surrounding how having a Green Deal loan attached to your property will impact on its future saleability, for many homeowners it may be advisable to look at alternative ways to fund any energy efficiency measures."

In theory, anyone selling their home who has taken advantage of the Green Deal can pass on the outstanding loan amount to a new buyer. But effectively that will mean the new buyer having to pay more for the cost of heating their home than they need to, until the outstanding cost of improvements is repaid to the energy firm.

There are 45 different types of improvements available under the Green Deal, and households in England and Wales could also qualify for cashback worth more than £1,000. Active measures, such as lighting, reduce the amount of energy you use, whereas passive measures, such as insulation, prevent heat from being wasted.

Cost savings can be considerable. Cutting back on wasted energy will also help the environment. This is crucial in the battle against global warming. Shamefully, Britain's ageing buildings are among the least-energy efficient in the world, and account for 38 per cent of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions, according to government figures.

So there is a general consensus across the energy industry and government that improving the energy efficiency of homes is the best way to tackle the growing problem of people being able to afford to heat their homes while dealing with growing concerns about the environment.

But the Coalition's plans appear to be woefully inadequate in actually cutting the number of homes in fuel poverty, where the cost of heating a home takes up a tenth of a householder's income.

The Government's impact assessment estimates that Green Deal will lead to 125,000 to 250,000 households being lifted out of fuel poverty by 2023. But that's nowhere near enough, said Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK.

"The Government's target of lifting just 250,000 households out of fuel poverty over the next 10 years is tantamount to trying to bail out a sinking boat with a teacup; in the last month alone another 300,000 households have joined the ranks of the fuel poor," she pointed out.

It is estimated that some nine million households could fall into fuel poverty by 2016 while six million households are already in fuel poverty.

The closure of the previous Warm Front scheme means there is now no government-funded scheme to tackle fuel poverty.

In effect, the Coalition has transferred responsibility for the fuel poverty problem to energy companies. "That displays a serious failure of government to get to grips with the issue," said Ms Mitchell. "The price of energy will continue to rise for the foreseeable future, so effectively insulating our homes against heat loss is the only way to help consumers to pay their bills and stay warm," she said.

Age UK believes money raised from new carbon taxes of around £4bn a year over the next 15 years should be used to overhaul the energy efficiency of the UK's housing stock, as other European countries are doing.

"To meet the size of the fuel poverty problem, only investment on this scale would offer a lasting solution to the scourge of fuel poverty," said Ms Mitchell.

If you do want to find out more about how you can take advantage of the Green Deal, you can get free advice by calling the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 or by visiting www.gov.uk/greendeal.

If you apply, an assessor will be sent to your home and will make recommendations about improvements that may work for you. You'll then be expected to get quotes from approved Green Deal providers and once the quote, and the repayment plan, is agreed, work can start.

Complaints can be taken to the Energy Ombudsman Service on 0330 440 162 or www.ombudsman-services.org

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

    Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

    Laura Norton: Project Accountant

    £50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine