Energy minister Greg Barker has stressed it is still “early days” for the government’s flagship energy policy the Green Deal, despite Labour slamming the scheme as a “disaster”.
Speaking at a Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum, Mr Barker said the government was still pushing forward with the programme and was confident of its future.
The minister said the government would now look ahead with a local, community-led roll-out of the scheme, adding that that it hoped to deploy 30m smart meters by 2020 to enable this.
But shadow energy and climate change minister Jonathan Reynolds, who joined Labour’s energy team this week following the reshuffle across all three major parties, criticised the government’s flagship energy-efficiency scheme.
He said: “The best way to cut people’s energy bills is to improve energy-efficiency, but the government’s Green Deal has been a disaster.”
“Ed Miliband’s plans are designed for a leaflet not for the actual energy problems consumers’ face”
Greg Barker, energy minister
Mr Reynolds added: “The Green Deal was billed as the biggest home improvements programme since the Second World War, but so far only 12 people have had any measures installed.
“The fact that more than 99 per cent of people who had a Green Deal assessment didn’t want to take out a package should be a wake-up call for the government.
He made clear that if Labour were to gain power in the 2015 elections, the Green Deal would be scrapped to make room for new measures under their proposed ‘Energy Save’ scheme.
He added: “This is not a time for complacency – ministers need to pull their heads out of the sand and take action now to make the Green Deal a better deal for the public.”
Yet despite criticism and low uptake of the Green Deal, Mr Barker insisted that the government was on track.
Last week, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment published a report that stressed the need for the government to remain “clear” and “positive” about its flagship policy if it is to halve carbon emissions in new and existing housing by 2025.
Party chairman and Conservative MP Oliver Colvile said there were significant worries within the industry over the government’s commitment to this issue as well as its overall support for the green agenda.
He said: “Successive governments have set out unambiguous targets. They are obviously keen to make sure emissions in the building stock should be down by 50 per cent by 2025 and they have also given a very clear strategy as to whereabouts they want to be.
“But, despite setting out these ambitious targets there is concern about how genuine the government is.”
Energy price freeze
Speaking on the same day energy company SSE announced a price rise on domestic bills of 8.2 per cent, Mr Barker commented on the impact of Labour leader Ed Miliband’s energy price freeze pledge to consumers and industry, calling the proposals “atrocious”.
Mr Miliband pledged at his party’s conference last month that an incoming Labour government would freeze energy bills for 20 months after the general election, a move prime minister David Cameron has dismissed as a “gimmick”.
Mr Barker said: “Ed Miliband’s plans are designed for a leaflet, not for the actual energy problems consumers’ face.”
But Mr Reynolds hit back at the minister and claimed the Conservative Party was “completely out of touch”.
“The Tories have no answers to Labour’s energy price freeze and no ideas about how to help people with the cost of living crisis,” he said.
“If David Cameron and Greg Barker don’t stand up to the energy companies it will prove once and for all that they’re completely out of touch.”