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Britain’s Green Policy Disaster Unfolding

Jonathan Leake and Georgia Graham, The Sunday Times

The Green Deal, the government’s ambitious scheme to slash household carbon emissions and save energy, has run into a quagmire. It has a target to transform the energy use of 10,000 homes this year. So far, the score is just two.

The brainchild of Ed Miliband when he was Labour’s last energy secretary — and relaunched by Chris Huhne when he ran the energy department before he was jailed for perverting the course of justice — the scheme has been bogged down by software problems and has caused a collapse in the home insulation industry.

Ministers insist its performance is improving, but critics say it has been exploited by thousands of canny homeowners to subsidise new boilers that they would have bought anyway.

The Green Deal is meant to encourage people to take out loans to pay for energy-saving measures such as insulation and new boilers and use the savings to pay the money back.

In theory, millions could make their homes warmer and more efficient at no upfront cost. Instead they would take out loans over periods of up to 25 years — subject to the “golden rule” that the repayments do not exceed the value of the predicted energy savings. The repayments are then made via electricity bills.

Last February, David Cameron pledged it would make Britain “the most energy-efficient country in Europe”. The government aims to upgrade 10,000 homes by next year and 14m in two decades.

There have been glitches, however, in the software used to calculate households’ potential energy savings and the amounts they could borrow. Of 30,000 households assessed, only two have had the work done. Last week a third was approved for finance.

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