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Barker cools hopes of new boiler plan

The minister for climate change has appeared to rule out a further boiler scrappage scheme, saying that government efforts to retrofit Britain’s homes will focus more on galvanising private cash than doling out public money.

Speaking on the launch of the government’s new Green Deal, Gregory Barker said that there had been too many well-intentioned “piecemeal measures”.

“What we want is a less cluttered landscape [for energy efficiency schemes] and a less confusing message to the consumer and business.”

Asked whether the government would consider whether any lessons from the boiler scrappage scheme could be applied to the new Green Deal, he said: “To simply hand out large dollops of government funding direct from the taxpayer isn’t sustainable or scalable. We need to get beyond these relatively small-scale [ideas] and deploy private capital on a far more ambitious and larger scale.”

An influential body set up to scrutinise the government’s progress on sustainability issues this week referred approvingly to the boiler scrappage scheme. The Committee on Climate Change highlighted the £50m plan to upgrade heating systems for up to 125,000 households.

A similar Welsh scheme started in April offering a £500 discount, while a Scottish government scheme to replace 5,000 boilers through £400 grants allocated all funds within two days of its launch in May.

Mr Barker said that the government’s Green Deal, a multi-billion pound scheme to make UK homes more energy efficient, will provide major business opportunities for HVAC contractors.

Under the scheme, private suppliers will provide homeowners and tenants with long-term loans to pay for energy efficiency measures such as loft insulation and replacing old boilers with energy-efficient heat pumps. Consumers will repay loans through savings in their energy bills.

Mr Barker said the energy efficiency programme was a “game changer” that would deploy several billions of pounds to refurbish millions of UK homes and make them more energy efficient.

“The contractors in the heating and ventilation industry are going to be absolutely crucial in delivering the scale of our Green Deal ambitions,” Barker said. “There is going to be a lot of new participants such as financiers in the [energy efficiency] market who will be dependent on the [HVAC] contractors to deliver improvements.”

Contractors in the energy efficiency market will need to learn new skills and expand to keep pace with demand, he added. “We want to break open this market to new participants in the industry as well as industry experts,” he said.