Housing Specification Blog

An Open Letter to The Prime Minister

January 28, 2015 PaulGroves Housing IssuesPlanning & Legislation

Dear Prime Minister,

It is with regret that I have to inform you that my company, Green Heat Ltd, will uncouple from the Green Deal as a Green Deal Heating Installer today, the second anniversary of the launch of this flagship initiative.

I have been one of the greatest supporters of this scheme and we have tried very hard to make it work over the past two years. I have raised my concerns at the Green Deal Forums, which I was invited to be a member of as a small heating installer, but this Green Deal field is still being ploughed when it is full of boulders.

There appears to be a reluctance to make any real changes to the scheme that would enable small companies like mine to engage viably and economically.

The original scheme was going to be open to all Gas-Safe registered installers without the need for the added costs of PAS2030 for management systems, additional accreditation, inspections and surveillance. This was agreed with industry, as we are already highly regulated with a requirement to undertake costly training and examination every five years to maintain gas accreditation.

In addition to this, we are able to self-certify boiler installations for Building Regulation compliance as agreed with DCLG following the successful Energy Efficiency training and accreditation of over 70,000 heating installers. We also provide a Benchmark logbook with every boiler installation. This is signed by the installer and the customer, confirming that the installation complies with all the relevant standards and regulations. (The same standards and regulations required by PAS2030).

The Green Deal Oversight and Registration Body (GD ORB) was then set up on behalf of the Secretary of State at a cost of over £5 million. A meeting took place with all the accreditation bodies and it was decided that Gas-Safe accreditation was not sufficient and all installers had to follow PAS2030, together with all the costs and bureaucracy that go with it. This is a bit like turkeys voting against Christmas!

Green Heat Ltd has been providing Green Home Energy surveys and installing condensing boilers for 25 years. This is also my 50th year in the industry and together we have a proven track record in helping our customers make huge savings on energy consumption. We have a natural affinity with the Green Deal, so we invested in an online management system for PAS2030 compliance and applied for accreditation.

This involved an inspection of our online management system, which I was advised had to be printed off for the inspector. The inspection took a whole day and included a visit to see a boiler installation. The cost to my business, including lost revenue, was £1500 which cannot be passed onto my customers.

We are now advised that this has to be repeated annually and because of the lack of activity in the Green Deal until the GD Home Improvement Fund was launched, we are due for an inspection in February and again in March this year. This is a considerable additional cost burden on the company and cannot be justified. We have challenged the accreditation body concerned whose only response is that they have to do it – presumably to tick a box!

The initial slow take-up of the Green Deal has been well documented and we soon realised that we could not get access to the initial £270 boiler grants for our customers. However, we knew that British Gas were.

This prompted me to make a Freedom of Information Act request. This also had to go to appeal to reveal the information, which confirmed that British Gas had in fact secured over 11,000 boiler sales supported by these grants using taxpayer’s money.

Your DECC then agreed to change the scheme and the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund was launched on 9th June 2014. Although this was open to small installers and included a £1000 grant for new mains gas boilers, consumers could only qualify for the grant providing a second measure was installed, such as a flue gas heat recovery unit (FGHR). Many did not require a second measure, leaving them ‘unhelped’.

On 22nd July DECC decided to remove FGHR from the scheme; the scheme then abruptly ended two days later. Although we managed to secure some funding for our customers, we also had to deal with large numbers of disgruntled clients who felt they had been misled by your Government.

Following a consultation period with Industry, the second phase of the GDHIF was launched on 10th December and closed the day after for solid wall insulation. This left just £6 million available for other measures for the whole of England and Wales.

Sadly, the input into the consultation from industry appears to have been ignored. With Flue Gas Heat Recovery being removed from the scheme and LPG and oil boilers still not included, the help for consumers seems to have been stripped away. With fuel poverty still a major problem in this country – particularly among those dependent on fuel not supplied from the mains gas network – these moves are failing to deliver the support to those the scheme set out to help. More and more people are being left disappointed, disillusioned, out of pocket and ultimately, let down.

The result is that even the GDHIF has become unworkable. It creates more phone calls of complaints from the public about how the scheme is unhelpful and misleading.

I would also like to bring to your attention to how the Green Deal Communities Fund is also working against and letting down small Green Deal Installers and Assessors by distorting the market. We have worked very closely with all the Cambridgeshire Councils over many years on climate change and energy efficiency issues and were highly delighted when they were awarded £7million of the Green Deal Communities Fund last March.

However we are really disappointed with the harsh reality of this, as although there is supposed to be a commitment to use installers and assessors from within the county, this is not the case. We have recently been advised that over £133,000 of Green Deal assessments have been undertaken on this scheme locally, heavily subsidised by taxpayers’ money and using assessors from outside the county.

This not only distorts the market, but also undermines many local businesses who have made substantial investment in training and accreditation for these schemes and are not getting any return. I am not sure where this leaves your localism?

I do not want the good reputation of my company to be tarnished anymore by the failures of the Green Deal. This, coupled with the frustration of not being able to provide the help and improvements customers believe they will be funded for, is why we have decided to uncouple from today.

I do hope that you will give careful consideration to my concerns and enable the required changes to be made to improve the scheme. Removing all the red tape and added costs so small installers can engage with the Green Deal fully, without any additional cost or time burden, is key to making this work – for everyone.

Then and only then, will the true value of the Green Deal be realised by those who should benefit from it most, the customer and of course, the environment.

Yours sincerely

Peter Thom FRSA; FIDHEE; FCIM; MCMI; AIGEM
Managing Director
Green Heat Ltd

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