Green Heat MD voices concerns over the Bonfield Review

Green Heat MD voices concerns over the Bonfield Review

Two years on from announcing his ‘uncoupling’ from the failed Green Deal, energy efficiency campaigner, Peter Thom, has written to the Prime Minister to express his serious concerns over the recommendations made in the recently published ‘Each Home Counts’ Bonfield Review.

In an open letter to Theresa May, Green Heat’s founder and Managing Director expressed his frustration that the recommendations made in the Review put yet more barriers in the way of progress in enabling more people to live in energy efficient homes.

“Peter Bonfield’s Review shows that little has been learnt from the failure of previous initiatives,” said Peter. “The valuable experience, advice and knowledge from those who have tried to make these schemes work and who are on the ‘front line’ with consumers to help them, i.e. heating engineers, has not been considered.

“Following the disastrous failure of the Green Deal, I was somewhat surprised that following 200 meetings with 170 stakeholders and a further 410 organisations, the Bonfield Review is suggesting more of the same by retaining all these barriers. Clearly, the installers’ view is not being listened to and they were probably not well represented at these meetings.

“The Review makes 29 recommendations, including the setting up of a Strategic Governance Board proposed to oversee and monitor these and decide on the levels of auditing required.

“There is also a suggestion that all installers will have to pay to join the Government’s Trust Mark scheme. This could well distort the market for other better known and trusted quality mark schemes, such as Which? and local Trading Standards’ ‘Buy with Confidence’ accreditations.

“Our homes are still among the least energy efficient in Europe. As a dedicated campaigner for improving the energy efficiency of our homes in the UK to bring more affordable warmth to more people; and to cutting carbon emissions to protect our planet, it saddens me to see these barriers put in the way of progress.

“Operating best practice, with each customer’s individual needs carefully considered in every job, is the absolute priority in our business. Yes, it is essential that the customer is protected to ensure they receive a professional service from an accredited engineer and are provided with the correct information and advice, but there is robust legislation and regulation in place that already protects the consumer.

“I am not aware of any evidence that the perceived problems outlined in the review exist in the heating industry. I am also not aware of any evidence that existing consumer protection is inadequate or failing.

“This then raises the question of how successful government schemes, such as the Green Deal and RHI, have been in tackling fuel poverty, carbon emissions or helping the needy; or if they have been value for money. Indeed, the Audit Commission says not. An uncapped payment system under the Renewable Heat Incentive in Northern Ireland has enabled businesses to burn unnecessary amounts of fuel and to claim millions of pounds of public money in subsidies.

“In a review of the Green Deal, the National Audit Office concluded that the scheme had not achieved value for money because its design and implementation failed to persuade householders that energy efficiency measures are worth paying for. The loans were too expensive and the scheme kept changing, with the result that only 1% of householders applied for financial help under the Green Deal.

“These schemes have been very complicated and restrictive to a very low number of installers, so are not that accessible. Perhaps all schemes need to be evaluated on sound principals and a value for money basis and all the red tape and extra layers of accreditation such as MCS and PAS 2030, cut away?

“There are important lessons to be learned from the failure of previous initiatives. Being on the ‘front line’ with consumers, heating installers are in the best position to know what is needed and workable to protect, engage and educate homeowners on all home heating and energy efficiency measures. Indeed, in a OnePoll survey conducted by HomeServe during last year’s Gas Safety week, gas and heating engineers were shown to be the country’s most trusted traders.

“Surely then, engaging with them in a thorough consultation process must be an absolute priority when considering the implementation of any further changes and new initiatives?

“The heating industry really does not need any more regulation. We are a good and well-trusted group of professionals, delivering best practice and doing a great job of improving the energy efficiency and comfort in people’s homes; and not a rag tag of rogue traders, as seems to be the perception in the Bonfield Review.

Peter is now urging the Prime Minister to recommend a working party of professional heating engineers and installers to work with policy-makers to look at Bonfield and ways in which industry and government can collaborate to improve the efficiency of UK housing stock.

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