Newly appointed Energy Minister Amber Rudd has been forced to shut down the Green Deal money back scheme “with immediate effect” after it was overwhelmed by a last-minute dash for cash.
The Government had announced on Tuesday a step-down in the rate of return under the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) following the initial six-week, £50 million giveaway.
But bungling DECC chiefs now appear to blame a sudden surge in applications for clearing out the remaining £70 million of ring-fenced budget in the last two days.
The entire £120m budget was supposed to last 12 months and questions are now being asked as to why DECC continually manages to lose control of boom-and-bust markets that its flawed policies and mismanagement help to create.
In a terse statement, DECC confirmed this morning that the allocated budget has now been reached and “all applications received prior to the fund closing that satisfy the terms and conditions and meet the eligibility criteria will be honoured at the original rates”.
The GDHIF was set up to boost the original, floundering Green Deal loan scheme and help households in England and Wales improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
Energy Minister Amber Rudd said today: “The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is a world first and in a short space of time it has proved extremely popular.
“We were always clear there was a budget, which is why we encouraged people to act quickly.
“As a result, thousands more families will now benefit from Government help to have warmer homes which use less energy.”
Less than two days ago, the Energy Minister announced the scheme would continue from today on reduced terms to protect the remaining pot of £70m.
Today’s news that DECC appears to have lost control of the £120m budget and must close the GDHIF completely has been greeted with disbelief by industry leaders.
Richard Twinn, Policy and Public Affairs Officer at the UK Green Building Council, said: “The sudden and immediate closure of this fund is another setback for the energy efficiency industry because companies have specifically geared up to market and deliver through this scheme.
“These constant changes are not helpful to industry. We now need urgent clarity as to whether Government will bring forward any more money to ensure continuity of Green Deal work.
“This does demonstrate that we need long-term drivers, not short-term pots of cash to avoid this continual cycle of boom and bust.”
The shambles also provides a fascinating look behind the curtain of a Whitehall department that appears more interested in spin and news management than delivering effective policy.
Last week, ClickGreen analysis of the cash burn rate of the scheme found there was just one week of money left in the initial pot.
However, DECC demanded the story be removed – a request that was refused – and even took to Twitter to claim the article was “inaccurate”.
One industry leader stated: “DECC’s constant tinkering and changes adversely affect absolutely everyone in the market. That is, everyone apart from the fracking industry.”
The Department of Energy and Climate Change says it will monitor voucher redemption rates and will consider whether to launch a further offer in the unlikely event that funds become available.