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SMEs group together to access Green Deal

SMEs will be able to access Green Deal work through a new member-owned organisation which aims to help smaller businesses get work “on their own terms”.

Parity Projects managing director Russell Smith has announced plans to launch what’s currently being called a ‘Green Deal Conduit’ to help SMEs access Green Deal work and put smaller businesses “in charge of their own destiny” as early as the beginning of 2013.

Mr Smith aims to create a large network of small and medium sized businesses involved in the assessment and refurbishment of buildings across the UK.

He said: “The nature of the Green Deal means that engagement with the market requires an organisation to be able to provide a wide and complex set of services to customers, which will be difficult for small and medium sized organisations. The Green Deal Conduit is designed to allow these small and medium sized organisations to work together to be able to provide these Green Deal services.”

One of the drivers behind creating the organisation is to ensure SMEs do not miss out on work to larger companies such as British Gas and Kingfisher offering work ordinarily going to SMEs as part of Green Deal schemes.

The idea is that SMEs carrying out work, such as refitting a boiler or doing a loft conversion, can then carry out Green Deal work at the same time.

Mr Smith said: “Members will need to have all GD certification for GD work, and meet the GD Provider requirements for those [providers] that the Conduit aligns with. However, we expect the membership to also be able to work the ‘other way’ in agreeing work against a schedule of rates to be able to work like a large main contractor for a Green Deal Provider that has already identified a client.”

He added: “The key aspect of this is that [SMEs] were already there talking about a piece of work, and they are arranging the opportunity for the Green Deal to be added to it. What they don’t want is to lose the work they were there for in the first place, which could potentially happen if for instance the people who are talking about being Green Deal providers also offer lots of other services.”

He aims to build an IT-based infrastructure that will link Green Deal providers with local businesses, meaning small companies can work together to provide Green Deal services. “It would be an impartial brokerage, so people are allowed to input their pricing in advance, then the lead person is able to find a group of local suppliers around them to help do the work,” explained Mr Smith.

Mr Smith said that the organisation would give homeowners more choice about the Green Deal provider they choose. “We are looking to be a broker of Green Deal providers; we want to give homeowners the opportunity to choose between them,” he said.

The conduit already has the support of a large number of SMEs, industry bodies and trade associations including the Federation of Master Builders, the National Federation of Builders and the Institute for Sustainability.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said:

“99 per cent of businesses in the construction industry employ fewer than 60 people, but many of them are rightly worried about whether there will be space for them in the market if major retailers, contractors and energy companies all step in to sell the Green Deal.

“However, the ‘GD Conduit’ will allow its members to access the market by establishing links with the Green Deal finance providers. The potential to make major improvements to our existing building stock is huge and the problem won’t be solved without involving the small businesses in the industry, which is why everyone should be encouraged by the creation of the ‘GD Conduit’.”

The next step for Mr Smith is to secure funding for the organisation. Law firm Burges Salmon LLP is advising on legal and commercial implications.

“We have spoken with DECC and they are excited by the prospects of the model but it will need genuine government support to take it to the next level. As it ticks so many boxes such as building a local economy, creating a market for apprentices and providing a mechanism for community groups to drive change in their areas whilst minimising carbon dioxide emissions, we hope government do find a way to help it grow,” he said.

Parity Projects is a small company specialising in low-energy and retrofitting services to homeowners, so Mr Smith wanted to be sure his business was also going to benefit from the Green Deal.

“Parity Projects is a small organisation and we want a slice of the action too. We are already talking to lots of people about how to reduce their energy consumption, we are managing projects and we wanted to be in control of our own destiny,” he added.

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