Green deal or no deal?

Green deal or no deal?
deal or no deal

Updating the energy efficiency of the UK’s aged housing stock is a no-brainer, says Dan Vivian. It will possibly have more of an impact than any other action towards our ambitious carbon emissions targets. The question is how.

Building sexy new homes and imposing zero carbon requirements will only scrape the surface, as the existing housing stock is like an anchor dragging us down.

The Government’s flagship ‘Green Deal’ policy was proposed to boldly take this on. The boldness is to be admired but I’m afraid that launching a new ‘green’ policy to tackle this is misguided – not necessarily for all the criticisms expressed in other articles, blogs and social media. My fear for Green Deal is more fundamental: it’s the name.

Green is a turn-off

Green Deal may be snappy but it’s marginalising. To the mainstream, green is not a benefit in its own right. Instead it talks to the deep green minority who have probably already insulated their homes to within an inch of their lives, and who proudly have super efficient boilers that hardly run because the thermostat is turned down so low.

Green is actually a turn-off – sorry – to most consumers. So, a complex and untried green finance package based on possible savings, which might make houses more difficult to sell, is not going to ignite the mainstream. While ‘Feed In Tariff” (FIT) was less snappy, it did describe the mechanism, which was simple and profitable. Its success is evident on the roofs of houses across the UK, but I fear that the same will not be true of Green Deal.

Instead of saying “we are doing this because we think it is the right thing to do and we are putting our money where our mouth is” (as in FIT), the Government is saying, “we are doing this because you should think it is the right thing to do and should put your money where our mouth is.” Not a terribly compelling proposition in an age of austerity.

Green deal with it?

Radio 4’s Moneybox Live discussed this very issue recently. It struck me that the benefits of Green Deal were buried by the concerns of callers over its complexity, loan repayments costs and the potential legacy left with a property. The probable savings from effective insulation, efficient boiler and controls are completely lost.

The savings angle has been taken by the press advertising campaign that has appeared in a limited number of papers since the official launch of the scheme at the start of the month. These take the problem-solution approach (à la Cillit Bang) and all carry the headline ‘Green Deal with it’. I’m afraid that, unlike one squirt from good old Barry Scott (Cillit Bang spokesman), the Green Deal won’t deal with it and a much more sophisticated and sensitive approach should be taken.

It isn’t a great start for Green Deal: poor product, poor name, poor understanding of the audience’s needs. All will inevitably lead to poor uptake. When will we realise that ‘green’ alone is not seen as a benefit and doesn’t sell to the mainstream?

Read more from The Vivian Partnership on their blog.