There is a long way to go before homeowners and small businesses feel convinced by the benefits of the Green Deal, according to attendees of the Dods Green Deal Business Summit in Birmingham.
Speaking from an industry perspective, Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF) deputy CEO Giles Willson questioned whether private homeowners would purchase replacement windows under the Green Deal scheme as it stands when they could probably get a better deal from a window installations company's existing offers.
Willson said this called into question the idea that GGF members would benefit from the Green Deal.
Echoing this sentiment, Paul Bogle, policy manager at the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said that a high level of uncertainty remained around the assessment and training criteria for becoming a certified Green Deal provider. Which he ascertained could put his members off from getting involved in the delivery process, although he maintained there was still an appetite there.
As for homeowners, George Marsh, chair of Sustainability West Midlands said he believes that there is a lack of consumer confidence in the big supermarkets that are set to provide the loans to homeowners which will enable them to retrofit their properties. He suggested that this could impact the level of take-up among the wider public,
Marsh spoke of the "big challenge" that remains to persuade homeowners that they can make a net cost saving under the Green Deal when loans being advanced under the programme are being packaged with interest rates of 7-8 per cent.
Interest rates at this level could seriously undermine the viability of the Golden Rule, agreed the Green Deal Network's Jane Knight.
Under the rule, consumers are supposed to be able to recoup the cost of their loan through savings on their energy bills.
The business summit, part of the Dods Green Deal Dialogue, was held at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in Birmingham and brought together small and large businesses interested in getting involved in the scheme, trade associations, Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) representatives and Green Deal providers, such as British Gas and Carillion.
Designed, among other things, to explore how to encourage SMEs to become involved in the Green Deal supply chain and ways to protect consumers from rogue traders, as well as looking at how the Green Deal will impact the non-domestic market, the event was part of a sustained policy dialogue facilitated by Dods in conjunction with the DECC and partners Velux, Land Securities and the Glass and Glazing Federation.
The summit, which combined an exhibition with breakout policy discussions on the implications of the Green Deal for the domestic and non-domestic markets, examined the benefits on offer to entice consumers as well as asking whether the proposed measures to compel landlords to comply with the scheme were too punitive.
Under present DECC proposals, private landlords that fail to bring properties up to a defined emissions threshold could face non-compliance fines, to be introduced by 2018.
Speaking for the department, Chenab Mangat, assistant director in the Green Deal Demand Team, accepted that the government still needs to consult on the precise ramifications of the scheme and said that DECC was using forums such as the summit to take heed of businesses' views.
It was imperative to get both aspects of the scheme right, Mangat said, referring to measures needed to stimulate take-up among domestic homeowners and the non-domestic, buy-to-let market.
In other comments, Land Securities' Neil Pennell said that "the more we dig into the Green Deal the less opportunity it seems to offer".
He called for action to reassure the market, such as guarantees from Green Deal providers that if a buyer has invested in the scheme it will pay back within five years.
This was important within a commercial context, Pennell said, noting that no such guarantees presently existed.
Speaking on behalf of the programme's other partner, Velux, design manager Paul Hicks questioned whether community level take-up might be a more effective way of driving change rather than going after individual households.
The Green Deal Dialogue, which includes extensive policy research and numerous roundtable discussions with businesses and MPs, is set to produce a policy report on the implications of the scheme in time for the beginning of party conference season in September, where the debate will continue in the form of a panel debate at each party conference.