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No room for Green Deal cowboys - Huhne

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Energy secretary Chris Huhne has insisted there would be “no room for cowboys” in plans to roll out the installation of energy improvements to millions of UK homes.

Under the “green deal”, consumers will be able to improve the energy efficiency of their property at no upfront cost, instead paying it back through a charge on their energy bill which is intended to be less than the savings made as a result of the improvements.

The scheme, which forms a major part of the Energy Bill, aims to improve the energy efficiency of Britain’s buildings and, it is hoped, create thousands of jobs in the sector.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change estimates that the number of people employed in insulation alone could soar from current levels of 27,000 to 100,000 by 2015 and up to 250,000 in the next decade.

But Mr Huhne said measures in the Energy Bill would ensure that consumers would not fall victim to rogue traders or receive dodgy advice.

The proposals include an assurance customers receive accredited advice on how to make their property more energy efficient and ensuring that the measures such as insulation are installed by an accredited installer working for a reputable company.

The rules will also prevent customers being mis-sold energy efficiency measures, provide a “green deal” quality mark and insurance-backed warranties, as well as ensure a competitive market for the programme which will allow high street retailers, local authorities and builders merchants to deliver the programme.

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said the government was right to make sure consumers were protected, but warned that hoping the green deal would simply catch on was “very optimistic”.

He said: “It’s critical that the finance is provided at sufficiently low interest rates to make it attractive for consumers and to ensure they can access a range of technologies as part of their green deal package.”

And he said: “Crucially, householders need to be given a clear signal that they will be expected to refurbish their home - either with fiscal incentives that link rates of stamp duty or council tax to the level of energy efficiency, or we may have to bite the bullet and say people won’t be able to rent or sell their home until it meets a minimum standard.”

Mr Huhne said that when it came to making homes warmer and cosier, Britain was a “laggard” and the green deal was about taking the hassle and upfront costs out of making houses more energy efficient.

He said: “I’m confident the green deal will catch on with the public. It’ll make upgrading our nation’s draughty homes a no-brainer.

“But I don’t want people to be hoodwinked by rogue traders or receive dodgy advice.”

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