Weekly column by EUA's Chief Executive Mike Foster
Monday 14th March 2016
Last week I took part in a round table discussion, with DECC Secretary of State Amber Rudd MP and her ministerial colleague Lord Bourne, around an energy efficiency scheme for the “able to pay” sector – yep, a replacement for Green Deal. Now it was under Chatham House rules, so I will not say who said what but I will make a few observations – not all of them popular.
Firstly, it was good to be asked along to contribute, and I hope the two Ministers found it useful although I expect they probably found it frustrating. At times, I certainly did. Let me explain why. The Ministers heard from some quarters that there is a real appetite for whole house retrofitting to improve efficiency amongst owner-occupiers, but then the same people argued for subsidies to encourage take-up and then regulation to force take-up. Yep, the sort of mixed message that doesn’t convince anyone. This is where there is a difference between marketing a product or service to consumers and developing public policy for the whole country. You can’t use the same approach to both tasks.
Politicians, who ultimately make the decisions, need really strong arguments to put forward policies. And DECC Ministers, on their own, will not make the final decision – other departments are involved, especially Treasury. So glibly saying “let’s change stamp duty or council tax” misses the point that such changes are huge for any government.
I would also urge those advocating a new course of action, just take a step back and think of how this might work in practice and is it rational, to test its suitability. For example, one participant believed whole house retrofits could be done for £1500 and this was easily affordable for owner-occupiers. When challenged about the payback of some energy efficiency measures, one participant explained they didn’t expect consumers to “make economically rational decisions”. I don’t know what the Ministers thought but a warning siren should have been sounding. Finally, I’ll end on a slightly depressing note that outlines just how challenging this issue is. One leading figure in the energy efficiency world suggested that there was not a successful “pay as you save” scheme anywhere across the world for DECC to copy, he was not contradicted.
Mike Foster CE
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