Ministers call for eco tax breaks

The Department of Energy and Climate Change is placing pressure on George Osborne to introduce tax incentives as a means of encouraging green construction and eco retrofit projects, according to one of its ministers.

Speaking at the first day of the 2011 Ecobuild conference yesterday, Greg Barker, the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, said that tax incentives for retrofitting were ‘absolutely a priority’ for the DECC in the run up to the Budget, but that no decisions had been made on whether tax incentives for green building and retrofits would get the go-ahead. ‘The chancellor has got to make those decisions,’ he said.

It has been reported that George Osborne is considering a stamp duty rebate for householders who join the government’s green deal programme, which provides private sector loans to individuals who are looking to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.

Mr Barker also said he was ‘actively involved’ in discussions with the Treasury about simplifying the carbon reduction commitment. Based on a system of permits, the Carbon Reduction Commitment caps the amount of carbon that organisations including local authorities and larger housing associations can legally produce.

During the debate at the Ecobuild conference yesterday, Mr Barker effectively ruled out using regulation to force homeowners to make eco-friendly improvements to their properties. Speaking to the audience, he commented: ‘I can’t think of an easier and quicker way to piss off people and turn them off a programme that is so positive.’

The Energy Bill, which reaches report stage in the House of Lords today, contains provisions for councils to force private landlords to use the green deal to improve their stock, but there is no legislation for owner occupiers.

Mr Barker’s comments give room for plenty of optimism when it comes to introducing renewable energy technologies on a wider scale. While we would encourage anyone and everyone to make changes to their premises in order to cut their carbon emissions, we do understand that not every homeowner can afford to undertake more extensive eco retrofitting on their property. For individual householders, it may well be that loft insulation, double or triple glazing and improvements to their central heating system are the way forward.

However, we do welcome suggestions that social landlords may well be obliged to undertake eco retrofits on their properties. Social landlords have a responsibility to assist their tenants – often individuals with a lower disposable income –  in avoiding fuel poverty, often caused by outdated and inefficient heating systems. They are also in a far better position, financially, to consider renewable energy technologies such as solar PV, solar thermal and heat pumps.

Aside from the obvious ecological benefits of eco-retrofitting, renewable energy systems, particularly when installed on a larger scale, can mean drastic reductions on energy bills, and financial savings which benefit both the social landlords and their tenants. Installations on both new and older housing stock can also be fully or part funded by companies offering ‘Rent-a-roof’ schemes, in which companies install solar PV in return for a share of the Feed-in-Tariff incentives, meaning that social landlords have little reason to shy away from going green with their properties.

Recycling Lives’ Carbon Reduction department offers a range of renewable energy technologies to suit all needs. Our national network of MCS-accredited installers ensure that properties are fitted with the right kind of carbon reduction solution to suit their needs and we offer thorough end-user training in order to ensure that the landlord and tenant get maximum efficiency from their new energy solution.