Iain Duncan Smith Deflects

I receive another letter from Iain Duncan Smith MP on vellum yellow with sickly pale green type. “Dear Mrs [sic] Abbess”, the letter reads, “Further to our previous correspondence regarding Stop Climate Chaos Big [sic] campaign, please find enclosed a reply from Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary.” I asked Iain Duncan Smith in person for his own and personal support for a strong Energy Bill. What did he do ? Pass my letter on to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). I would have prefered a personal commitment to the issue, but, sadly, it was not to be.

The Rt Hon continued, “I hope you find his letter reassuring…” Reassuring ? What ? Am I some kind of emotionally incontinent complainant ? “…and helpful. However, please don’t hesitate to contact me again if I can be of further assistance.”

No, I didn’t find the letter from Chris Huhne helpful. I found it nauseatingly stuffed full of compromise. It explained to me that the ECO (Energy Company Obligation) would be replacing both the CERT (Carbon Emissions Reduction Target) and the CESP (Community Energy Saving Programme). In a section headed with “Warm Homes Amendment”, the letter explained the Green Deal would be “underpinned” by the ECO. “The Government’s ambition on reducing emissions” boomed the missive from DECC, “is clearly set out in the legally binding Climate Change Act and the projected contribution of the Green Deal towards this is analysed in the Energy Bill impact assessment…We want the Green Deal to achieve the largest market possible, but it would not be appropriate to set specific targets for this scheme.”

I beg your pardon ? First the letter emphasises the legally binding Climate Change Act, which has legally binding carbon emissions reductions, and then the letter says that one of the key policy vehicles to deliver the Carbon Budget under the Climate Change Act should not have any measurable goals. So, tell me, why are we doing this Green Deal, again ? If we can’t measure out and plan its impacts, how do we know if it’s going to reach the right level of achievement ? Since this is one of the main proposals in the Energy Bill, it seems daft, if not a downright compromise, not to lay out expectations in numbers and percentages.

I wonder what on Earth could have brought this remarkably low ambition about. The next sentences inform me. “Our view is that businesses do not need Government targets, they need the opportunity to make reliable profits. The Green Deal mechanisms make business sense – as a commercial opportunity as well as a money saver.” So there it is, in black and white – the Green Deal is not about achieving carbon dioxide emissions reduction goals – it’s all about privatised energy companies turning a profit, and a reliable one at that. So presumably, if the energy companies don’t think Green Deal opportunities are going to make them money, they will whinge and moan and wheedle about how they can’t take part, and they won’t take part, and ambition and achievements will be as low as the CERT and CESP.

As if to anticipate my hollow laughter, the letter continues, “However, the Green Deal is not the sole mechanism for achieving our carbon budget and fuel poverty targets – it will be integrated with a wider set of policies, not least the future ECO. We are working to ensure that the policy landscape as an integrated whole is fit to deliver our ambitions for the household sector to 2022.”

This is truly a cheapskate policy. The Green Deal is supposed to be cost-free : homeowners and landlords apply for loans from energy companies, to fit insulation and renewable energy to their properties, and the loans are repaid from the energy savings – meaning the property owners pay nothing extra overall, and the energy companies continue to make the same level of profit. If it does work in the manner intended, the Government will not have to spend any public money on subsidies to raise levels of home insulation, solar power, wood burners, double glazing and the like. It is utterly ridiculous not to set any ambition for real emissions reductions through the Green Deal if it’s going to cost nobody a penny more than they spend today.

The Energy Company Obligation is supposed to offer ways for energy companies to keep returning a healthy dividend to their shareholders, even while they sell less high carbon energy overall. The other option would be to increase the amount of low carbon energy they supply – but it’s expensive to invest in new forms of low carbon energy, and it would dent energy company shareholder earnings, or raise consumer energy prices. So, obviously, energy companies are going to be reluctant to spend on new low carbon energy resources. And so, barring more state control over energy, it would seem to make most sense to push schemes like the Green Deal, selling less energy but more energy services.

Without ambition, the people are disappointed. Without a strong Green Deal, the people will be left paying big energy bills, and kept dependent on energy companies for home comfort. Chris Huhne, what a waste of a great policy idea !

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