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

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Financial Adviser

    £20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...

    SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    Guru Careers: Application Support Analyst / 1st Line Support

    £25 - 30k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Application Support Analyst / 1st L...

    Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

    £45K - £55K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a full stack .NET D...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence