This article titled “Thousands of insulation industry jobs lost in new year, figures show” was written by Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 16th January 2013 14.39 UTC
More than 1,700 jobs have been lost in the insulation industry since December because of the government’s flagship energy efficiency policy, according to insulation companies.
The green deal, under which householders will be able to take out loans for work on their properties such as loft and cavity wall insulation to improve their energy efficiency, will be launched on 28 January. But the government’s old support mechanisms that made insulation cheap or free for households were cancelled in December, so few people have been insulating their houses.
According to the Insulation Industry Forum (IIF), orders from more than 34,000 households wanting insulation were cancelled because the funding was cut, and a further 27,000 inquiries from householders put on hold. That spells higher costs and unnecessarily freezing homes at the coldest time of year.
Ten major companies and five energy efficiency organisations have written to Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, urging him to work with them on a transition scheme that would ensure households, particularly poorer ones, have access to insulation during the current cold snap and the next two months of winter.
Insulation experts believe it will be April before most companies planning to offer home improvements under the green deal will be ramping up to do so, leaving a gap in which up to 16,000 people may lose their jobs , according to the IIF, which organised the letter to Davey.
The trade association polled its members on 7 December and 9 January, and found that 1,782 jobs had been lost, while a further 1,124 had been put on notice. But these figures are likely to under-represent the true number of job losses.
John Sinfield, managing director of Knauf Insulation Europe, said: “Government delays and the consequent uncertainty are having a serious impact on jobs. If the government is serious about delivering on its green ambitions, protecting jobs and encouraging growth, it now needs to finally engage with industry, or risk serious harm to both the insulation industry and the green deal, a policy [we] want to see succeed.”
There are also concerns that people will be put off by some aspects of the green deal. For instance, many companies currently offer an initial assessment to householders, to see what form of energy efficiency improvements may be most suitable for their homes, for free, outside of the green deal. But research by the Guardian has shown that most green deal assessments will have to be paid for upfront, for about £95 to £150, although in some cases it will be refunded if households go ahead with the work.
Many experts are also worried that the green deal, where households that have taken out loans for improvements are paid back through additions to their electricity bills, will prove difficult for consumers to understand. Although people should make a net saving, because they should be able to use less energy to heat their homes, this might not be apparent. Some experts suspect that many British homes are underheated at present, so insulation may not result in a net energy saving because people will use the same amount of energy but have a warmer and more comfortable home.
As an incentive to people to sign up, the government is giving away £125m in “cashback” to people when they take up a green deal offer, which could be worth hundreds of pounds per household. Davey said: “The green deal will be a great offer for people to insulate their homes from the cold, and their wallets from rising energy prices. With cashback too, energy saving has never been so attractive. Our cashback scheme is a generous offer but it’s first-come, first-served so householders need to be quick off the mark. Get an assessment, be ready to have home improvements done with a green deal when it launches on 28 January and then get your cash back.”
He added: “This also sends a clear message to the industry that the green geal is coming. Green deal providers and businesses in the supply chain need to start gearing up to take full advantage of what promises to be an exciting new market.”
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