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Regulation isn’t always a bad thing

It was no real surprise to see the Green Deal effectively scrapped before it ever really took off, in a month where we also saw the government indicate cuts to the Feed-in Tariff and the end of its zero-carbon homes policy. The question now is which scheme will be next – the RHI or ECO?

While the intention behind the Green Deal may have been positive, the complexity it added to the supply chain, its unappealing interest rate and the way in which it marginalised our network of heating engineers made success very unlikely.

At a time when the Conservatives are still finding their feet on energy policy and are under pressure to reduce spending, it was always going to be difficult to justify a future for a scheme so many had already written off as a failure. In this respect, it is hard not to agree with the government’s decision to axe what was originally hailed as its “flagship household energy-efficiency programme”.

Given the need to reduce household bills without increasing spending, the Department of Energy & Climate Change now has to find a way to introduce regulation that use market forces to its advantage.

The decision to make condensing boilers mandatory remains the most effective fuel-, energy- and CO2-saving legislation of all time, yet that was over a decade ago.

We now need a government willing to build on previous successes by talking to the industry and being flexible with its drip-feeding of regulation.

What will replace the Green Deal remains to be seen. But our wider industry is faced with a huge opportunity to optimise use of the existing gas network by continuing to improve boilers, and steadily introducing smart controls and other low-carbon technologies.

What we need the government to remember amid so many cuts is that not all regulation is bad.

We could yet find ourselves in a situation where under the new Energy-related Products Directive requirements, new heating and hot water systems are rated A+ rather than A in five years’ time, which would certainly go some way to setting us on the right track toward reduced emissions and energy costs for Britain’s domestic properties.

With this, however, comes the need for the government to pledge its support for the heating and
hot water industry – not only in supporting the installers of energy-efficient technologies, but also by making them a much more appealing investment for homeowners.

With the right support from the government, there is no reason why building-related industries can’t work together to keep energy efficiency high on the agenda. The next step has to be in-depth dialogue between the policy makers and these industries to make sure that when the time comes for new regulation to be introduced, it is in the best interests of all concerned.

Neil Schofield is head of governmental and external affairs at Worcester, Bosch Group

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