Green Deal pioneers, but will they open the way for more providers?
They’ve been described as the “Green Deal pioneers”. Yesterday, 21 UK firms and one community group ‘signed up’ to work with the Government to get its flagship energy efficiency programme off the ground by the ‘go live’ date of October 1. There was even a photo opportunity on the steps of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) offices in Whitehall, for those who turned up. British Gas, B&Q and other blue chip companies were among them, but noticeable by their absence were big retail names like Tesco and M&S, and energy firms EDF, Scottish Power and npower.
What does it mean for Green Deal providers?
The object of yesterday’s exercise was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding – not a legal document, but a notice of intention by the signatories that they will have “the necessary systems, processes and finance in place” to be able to offer Green Deal plans when the programme launches.
It’s certainly something Government Ministers will have wanted. They’ve got a lot riding on the Green Deal and this vote of confidence follows growing concerns that support for the Green Deal could be crumbling, with some of the Big Six energy firms reportedly saying they won’t be ready for the launch of the scheme.
Significantly, three of the Big Six – British Gas, E.ON and Scottish and Southern – are signatories of the MoU, which means their new billing platforms to collect payment for the Green Deal will be in place in time for launch. However, all six energy firms have to be ready for the October 1 launch or face the possibility of being fined.
Questions also have to be raised over why big retail players such as Tesco and M&S – which have been linked so closely with the Green Deal up until now – are not on the list. DECC, yesterday, was playing down the significance of their absence, saying this was just the first wave of Green Deal providers and more would be joining when they were ready.
Opportunities for SMEs?
But one man’s loss is another man’s gain, as they say, and most encouraging about the Green Deal pioneers was the number of SMEs in their ranks. There were seven in all – CarbonLow, which specialises in the energy performance of buildings, sustainability consultant Stroma, renewable energy company, BritishEco, social enterprise company Yorkshire Energy Services, solar company Ampere and financial services company ReEnergise. One of them – Toriga Energy – is a Green Deal start-up.
The Government says the Green Deal will deliver thousands of jobs and pump billions of pounds into the UK economy. But there’s a strengthening opinion among businesses – not least SMEs themselves – that the Green Deal will end up serving the interests of big business, while small companies will at best get sub-contracted, or at worst will be squeezed out completely by the ‘red tape’ and the costs of participating in the scheme.
Yesterday, we heard another story.