Thursday, 4 March 2010

Supermarkets to offer 'green energy makeovers'

Supermarkets and DIY chains will offer 'green energy makeovers' to home owners as part of Government plans to transform Britain's housing stock.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:00AM GMT 02 Mar 2010

Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, will announce a package of measures today to make Britain's homes "greener and warmer".
A key element will be the Pay as You Save or PAYS scheme which provides "green home loans" of up to £10,000 through supermarkets, DIY chains or local authorities but allows the homeowner to pay back the cost over time as savings are made on energy bills. For example, a home owner can insulate the loft or have solar panels installed and pay the cost back without noticing because it will be taken from savings on the electricity bill.

The scheme has been designed to make green home improvement cheaper and easier in order to meet Government targets on cutting emissions. But critics say it remains inaccessible to poor people who really need to reduce fuel bills.
The Government is committed to cutting emissions from households by 29 per cent over the next ten years.
Mr Miliband said the "great British refurb" will enable people to access money for home improvements, without having to pay it back immediately.
"This new approach will allow people to pay for home improvements after they have had them installed rather than before. More people will be able to get the work they want done. That means less energy used which is good for the environment and lower bills which is good for families, particularly when we have cold weather like we did this winter," he said.
The "green home loans" are expected to be made available from banks or through the Government. Builders, supermarkets or even mass communication companies could take out the loans and then offer to do the work and recoup the cost plus interest from the savings made on energy bills.
Legislation will make it possible to link the loan to the house rather than the person, so even if people move house there is still an incentive to take up the scheme.
In future leading supermarket chains like the Co-operative and Tesco and DIY chains like B&Q are expected to offer complete packages insulating people's homes or installing renewable energy devices like solar panels or wind turbines. Once the Government scheme is in place home owners could have the option of paying back the money over a period of up to 25 years, either through payments on the energy bill or through the local authority.
Local authorities could also offer green makeovers and then take the money back over time with no interest.
But Dave Timms of Friends of the Earth said more needed to be done to ensure that vulnerable elderly people can take advantage of the scheme.
"PAYS is a useful addition to the policy framework and it will work for many many able-to-pay households and could be especially effective in homes that are relatively cheap to improve. But for people in fuel poverty, for the private-rented sector and people living in hard-to-treat homes. There are limitations that mean the Government has to come up with other mechanisms and standards to make sure nobody is left behind."
John Alker of the Green Building Council said the Government needed to do more to encourage greener homes such as offering rebates on council tax or a cut in stamp duty if the house is improved.
"A comprehensive and radical government strategy on green homes is frankly long overdue. However we wait and see whether this announcement can live up to that challenge. We may well need to see additional incentives to encourage people to take up this scheme." he said.
The Conservatives have already pledged to introduce a similar scheme to PAYS called the "new green deal" that will also work with supermarkets and DIY chains to offer green makeovers.