Penny Kemp finds out what the government is offering to help make our homes more energy efficient...
This March, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband gave details of a new "green loans" scheme, which will enable homeowners to borrow money to pay for improvements to their homes to make them more energy efficient. The loans will be tied to the house rather than to the owner, as previous experience has shown that people move house on average every nine to twelve years. The idea behind this linkage is that many householders may not have a long enough period for paying back the loan before they move, especially if it is a costly improvement such as solar panels or wind turbines. Both these technologies require a significant period before householders see a return on their investment. By tying the loan to the property and not the current owner, it gives an incentive to invest in high quality energy efficiency measures.
The above seems a very good idea and has been piloted in several areas. It is called 'Pay as you Save'. The government put £4 million into funding the pilots and final results should be available by April 2011.
The pilot scheme in Stroud is a partnership with Severn Wye Energy Agency and homeowners who have joined the programme receive a tailor-made home energy survey, which identifies measures that will achieve a real saving in carbon emissions. Fifty homes have been chosen to participate in the pilot project and the council will manage the repayment process with Severn Wye Energy Agency overseeing the advice and installation. In the London Borough of Sutton, the pilot scheme is being run by the council, B&Q and BioRegional. Homeowners in the borough can apply for a 40% free subsidy and a 60% interest-free loan for significant energy improvements.
If you reside in Sussex or Surrey, British Gas are looking for homeowners who want to become more energy efficient. The Pay as you Save offer is limited to 50 customers post April 2010. Applications should be made to British Gas Green Homes call centre on 0800 107 0187.
Working through the energy efficiency grants is a minefield but there is help. Grants towards photovoltaics (solar electricity) and wind turbines have finished but there are still grants to help you with insulation and draught proofing and some forms of microgeneration. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) www.energysavingtrust.org.uk is your first point of call for independent energy efficiency advice. This April, we have been told we will see the introduction of a feed-in tariff meaning that those who produce excess electricity from renewable will be able to sell their electricity back to the grid. As I understand it, and according to the press release issued by the government department this February, 'households and communities who install generating technologies such as small wind turbines and solar panels will from April be entitled to claim payments for the low carbon electricity they produce.' In theory, this means that householders will be paid a sum for all the electricity they produce regardless of whether it is used for their own consumption. I would expect further details to be given in any budget statement.
You should also contact your local authority to find out what is available in your area as many councils run their own schemes and grants. Certain benefits also qualify you for help with the Warm Front grants. The Energy Saving Trust has details of these grants on their website. Although the announcement for the 'green loans' is a welcome initiative, there are measures you can take to save money and become more energy efficient. Here are my top tips:-
1. Search for draughts and deal with them immediately. Pull curtains at night and put reflective panels behind radiators. The financial investment will mean a payback within months.
2. Cavity Wall Insulation – many houses in this country still do not have cavity wall insulation. If you live in a house built after 1930, the chances are that you could benefit from cavity wall insulation. Check with the Energy Saving Trust or your local authority whether you are entitled to free or reduced cost for the work. Many pensioners and those on low incomes are. The cost will be in the £000s but you could save up to 20% of your heating bill each year.
3. If you need a new washing machine, dishwasher, fridge or freezer, make sure it is energy efficient. Models are graded as to their energy efficiency.
4. Turn the lights off when you leave a room and don't leave appliances on standby.
5. Fix dripping taps, use appliances efficiently (don't fill the electric kettle for one cup of tea). The best advice I can give you is to ensure that you implement the simple measures immediately and check carefully with the Energy Saving Trust and your local authority for the situation regarding grants and new schemes as these appear to change on an almost daily basis.