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'Green' consultations costing industry millions

The flood of Government consultations on zero carbon homes, energy efficiency, renewable heat and the Code for Sustainable Homes have cost the renewable and microgeneration industry at least £33million to respond to – according to new research set to be released in January.

The figure was revealed by Micropower Council President Baroness Maddock at a reception held at the House of Commons and attended by Energy Minister Mike O’Brien.

She said: “We have to be careful that collectively we are not seen to be all talk and no action.”

She said that research by consultant Grace Bennett from JDS Associates indicated that a total of 12 consultations had been undertaken by various government departments on zero carbon homes and the Code for Sustainable Homes since 2005. She pointed out this was equivalent to one consultation per zero carbon home built so far.

Meanwhile, numerous other consultations have been undertaken across a whole range of issues and policy areas relating to microgeneration.

She added: “The cost to industry of responding to these consultations is £33 million – to put that into context that is treble the figure paid out through the Low Carbon Building Programme.”

At the beginning of December the Low Carbon Building Programme had only paid out just over £10mill in grants – although more may be forthcoming through the latest funding stream which covers larger projects.

Mr O’Brien responded: “I got the message about less consultation, but I think it is also important to learn from people who are working in the industry and listen to their points of view. I think that is actually an important thing for Government to do as well as being the responsible thing to do.”

Grace Bennett said the figures were still being reviewed ahead of the release of her report at the beginning of next year, but she believed they were relatively conservative estimates and there was a great deal of frustration within the industry.

The cost to industry was reached after consulting a range of trade associations, large scale energy suppliers and manufacturers working within the sustainable energy sector.

She said: 'The £33 million figure is our basic assessment of the cost to industry of responding to consultations relating to sustainable energy and energy efficiency since the general election in 2005.

'In our opinion, this figure is a conservative assessment as most major companies and trade bodies have several people working on any given response, with plenty of cross checking between respondents.'

She added: “There are three issues emerging from the research. Firstly, there is an excessive number of consultations in relation to policy outcomes. Secondly, there is the cost to industry in terms of time and resources spent responding. Third is the duplication of consultations.

“The overall message from the research is that consultation has a vital role to play in the policy making process and as a way for industry to get its voice heard, but companies have to be selective about which consultations to get involved with.”