The aspiration and delivery gap

Steven Heath asks whether the Cabinet reshuffle will fill the gap between aspiration and delivery

In his biggest reshuffle since becoming Prime Minister, David Cameron fired the starting gun for the general election by sacking or moving at least six Cabinet members to make way for a series of fresh replacements, who will be promoted on Tuesday.

“This week the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) annual progress report warned a lack of certainty is eroding the country’s chance of meeting the fourth carbon budget. The CCC goes on to highlight the failure of current policy to exploit the cost effective carbon savings available in the UKs building stock – especially our existing homes.

“It is because of this absence of a coherent direction of travel in policy that industry is reduced to looking for confidence in signs, such as who has been promoted to what job and what their track record on the energy efficiency agenda actually is…?

“In truth, there is little time to make a significant impact on policies such as Green Deal before the next election, yet changes were promised and there remains a yawning gap between the aspirations set out at the beginning of this parliament and the numbers delivered to date.

The new entrants to the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) could go some way to rebuilding trust with the supply chain – if they show a willingness to both recognise that gap and begin the change process on some of the more glaring barriers to wider roll out.

“However, within the detail of new Cabinet posts is the apparent downgrading of the role from ‘Minister’ to ‘Parliamentary Under Secretary for State’. In addition, replacing Greg Barker who was a champion of energy efficiency – albeit a champion who promised much but delivered little – with Amber Rudd, someone who has no proven track record on energy issues, places further questions over the Government’s commitment to limiting climate change.

“We may indeed be reading too much into this reshuffle, however historically this Government has set a trend of persistently diluting its approach to energy efficiency from high ambition to low priority. This attitude can perhaps be traced back to inaction as key players such as high street banks and stores retreated from Green Deal in the early days, through sanctioning the abandonment of the consequential improvements consultation that offered to drive uptake of Green Deal and the removal of the Minister in charge of that consultation, Andrew Stunnell.

No alternative renovation demand drivers of a scale likely to salvage the Green Deal were ever offered, whilst the devastating cuts to the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) late last year were perhaps the greatest retreat from the agenda.

“This approach has certainly had damaging effects on the stability of future green investments. Indeed, those companies that invested on this Government’s aspirations will not be likely to make the same mistake twice.

“We await the new entrants to DECC to set out their stalls but, in the absence of any prior activity in the field, we hope that their appointment brings with it a new energy in driving the retrofit agenda, rather than offering a sign of further retreat.”

Steven Heath is Director – Public Affairs and Strategy for Knauf Insulation Northern Europe

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