Clearview South March 2014 - Issue 148 - Page 78

energyefficiency ‘Under delivering’ Green Deal makes energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) is calling for energy efficiency to be placed top of Britain’s infrastructure policy. The move comes one year after the government launched its flagship energy policy the Green Deal. But UK-GBC claims that the scheme has failed to live up the rhetoric delivered by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, with only 458 Green Deal plans ‘live’ by December 2013. In addition, the government pushed through cuts to its sister scheme the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) as part of its review of ‘green levies’. The result has been a massive decline in energy efficiency measures installed across the UK. Paul King, chief executive of the UK-GBC, explained why energy efficiency is so important. “Improving the energy efficiency of our cold and draughty homes is the only way permanently to cut households’ spiralling energy bills and will be a major driver of economic growth. Government must make energy efficiency a top national infrastructure priority, as important as decisions on HS2 or aviation expansion,” he said. “While the Green Deal is the cornerstone of the UK’s retrofit policy, it has so far massively under delivered. Government has to step in to create incentives that encourage homes into taking action and be prepared to prioritise capital spending on energy efficiency. Underwriting the Green Deal – as Government has done with Help to Buy – would provide a huge shot in the arm for the retrofit industry.” UK-GBC recommends making Green Deal finance more attractive to boost uptake of the scheme. In a report published on 21 January entitled, ‘Green Deal Finance: Examining the Green Deal interest rate as a barrier to take-up,’ the UK-GBC states that, although not the overriding issue that deters consumers from signing up to the scheme, lower interest rates than the current 8-10% could boost take-up. In addition, the report recommends a relaxing of the ‘Golden Rule’ which would allow households to choose to repay loans faster, reducing the overall amount repaid. The paper also believes that opening up alternative sources for finance could help further stimulate the energy efficiency market under the Green Deal scheme. For example, social investors or community funding could help offer finance at lower interest rates using EIS tax relief. This could reduce their cost of capital to 4-5%. One In Four British Small Businesses Says Sustainability Is A Top Priority For 2014 A quarter (25 per cent) of Britain’s Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) say sustainability is one of their top three priorities for 2014, reflecting a renewed confidence and a desire to focus on developing their businesses’ in the New Year, according to new research from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. But the findings show that many businesses are still focused on traditional ‘green’ activities, including energy saving and recycling rather than the broader range of sustainable business practices relating, for example, to supply chains and sourcing. It also highlights the fact that there are still businesses who do not believe there are any benefits to be gained from implementing such practices. Stephen Pegge, External Relations Director, Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Businesses clearly see the benefits of sustainability, and they are carrying out their environmental responsibilities through recycling and being energy efficient. 78 MAR 2014 “But for SMEs, sustainability also means interacting with charities, social enterprises and the community in which they operate; working responsibly within their supply chain and engaging with the next generation, through, for example, apprenticeship schemes. “Some sectors are really leading the way and other industries across the UK economy can follow their example and help underpin the growth we are now seeing with practices that will give us all a sustainable future.” Looking forward, a third (33 per cent) expect to increase their investment in sustainable business practices over the next five years, while two fifths businesses (42 per cent) expect their investment to remain flat. Only a small minority (two per cent) think they will cut back on spending in this area. Of those businesses that still have no sustainable business practices, more than two fifths (44 per cent) say they will start investing over the next five years. Their key motivations are to reduce costs and increase profitability (52 per cent); and also to make a positive contribution to the community (28 per cent). (Responses from 1008 SMEs with a turnover of up to £25 million were collated by Gusto Research in October 2013). To read more, visit www.clearview-uk.com