81 per cent of people have not heard of Green Deal

With the Green Deal set to launch on Monday (28 January), energy comparison company uSwitch has warned that it could be off to a rocky start, with new research showing that four out of five people in the UK have not heard of the government’s home-improvement energy efficiency scheme.

Indeed, according to a The Telegraph, only five people have signed up the deal to date.

The scheme, first announced by the Department for Energy and Climate Change last summer, is set to improve the energy efficiency of 14 million homes by encouraging householders to take out low-cost loans to make energy efficiency improvements to their home thus reducing their energy bills.

Householders can borrow up to £10,000 from private sector investors for the improvements, such as loft and wall insulation, which can then be repaid over a period of up to 25 years through energy bills. The responsibility is then placed on the bill player, rather than individuals, so would continue to be paid, even if owners change.

Yet according to a new poll undertaken by YouGov on behalf of uSwitch, of the 5,071 energy customers questioned, only 19 per cent had heard of the deal despite the fact that 67 per cent of people said they wanted to make their homes ‘more energy efficient’.

Further, the poll found that once told of the scheme, 61 per cent said they were interested in the ‘reassurance, quality control and cost-saving offered by Green Deal’ with 51 per cent of people citing cost as the main obstacle to not having made energy-efficient improvements so far.

Minister for Energy and Climate Change Greg Barker, did not seem surprised by the poll’s findings, telling the Guardian: "We're right at the beginning of the Green Deal journey, and the uSwitch report is right to identify there is relatively low consumer understanding around the Green Deal. It's as you'd expect, as it's yet to be rolled out. I expect that to change over the coming year."

The Green Deal has been met with criticism from ministers since its introduction, with the Shadow Energy Minister, Luciana Berger, labelling the scheme as a ‘shambles’ after it was revealed in October 2012 that zero UK householders had signed up to take out the energy-efficiency loans.

‘A lot at stake for consumers’

uSwitch is now urging government to ‘communicate the scheme clearly’ to get consumers fully on board.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch, said: “The high cost of energy today means that Green Deal has to deliver – there is a lot at stake here for consumers.

“Household energy is rapidly becoming unaffordable and reducing the amount we use will protect us from higher bills. This is why consumers need to have a simple, well-designed and well-communicated scheme they can trust, if they are to feel the benefits in their pockets and on their bills.

“In the face of higher prices there are two simple steps to lowering bills: use less energy and pay the lowest possible price for what you do use. The Green Deal should hopefully help many more with the former, and I would urge consumers to help themselves now with the latter.”

As an incentive for people to take up the new scheme, the government has devised cashback payments, which will vary according to the type of works that they use the loans for. For example, customers could claim back £50 for draught-proofing, £270 for a condensing boiler and up to £650 for solid wall installation. The YouGov poll showed that the consumer protections embedded in the scheme appealed to 61 per cent of people asked.

British Gas is currently the only household name listed as a Green Deal Assessor, however the number of companies listed as offering assessments is growing rapidly, with a total of 64 now signed up to the deal.

Read more about the Green Deal.