Greg Barker is MP for Bexhill and Battle and Minister of State for Climate Change.
Today the Coalition has outlined plans to unleash the biggest home improvement programme since the Second World War. The new Energy Bill may be a huge step towards fulfilling our ambition to be “The Greenest Government ever,” but it is certainly no tree huggers charter or a narrow response to climate science!
“The Green Deal” the centre piece of this flagship Bill will go even further than the Conservative manifesto. In the general election, we promised that every household would be entitled to upto £6,500 to spend on energy efficiency improvements, available to everyone, without any upfront payment, to fund modern energy saving measures around the home.
Today we are raising the limit to £10,000 for measures that can be paid for against future savings and more could be available from the big energy companies to further help with older, hard to treat homes and also to assist the fuel poor.
As a result of the new market frame work we are introducing, the private sector will be unleashed on an ambitious scale that will finally match resources to the size of the challenge of retrofitting Britain’s inefficient and old housing stock, which after 13 years of Labour, languishes at the bottom of the European energy efficiency table.
Not only is this great news for householders who own their own home but it will also reach those in the rented sector, where landlords will be able to upgrade their properties without any upfront cost. In the 1980’s, the Conservative’s sale of Council Houses transformed over three million homes but, such is the scale of this programme that it should reach 14 million homes by 2020 and 26 million homes by 2030.
This will herald a rush of new entrants into the energy market like B&Q, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer to challenge the dominance of the big six energy companies but it will also create a huge opportunity for thousands of entrepreneurial, small local businesses to get a piece of this new, multi billion pound market.
The Green Deal will open up the sector to new competition, galvanise local solutions, create more choice for consumers and encourage more research and investment to spur technical innovation and drive down costs of many energy saving products.
So this new Coalition initiative will herald an end to New Labour’s failure on fuel poverty. No more short term programmes and stop start schemes, all replaced with an ambitious market based solution that will succeed where Labour failed.