Why training is essential to the Green Deal’s success

The Government's flagship energy efficiency initiative, The Green Deal, has launched this month, with an initial focus on low energy installations within the social housing sector. Philip Hargreaves looks at why the quality of workmanship is vital to the success of the Green Deal.

The Green Deal will then be extended to the domestic and the commercial sectors early next year, making this a far-reaching energy efficiency drive aimed at meeting challenging carbon emissions reduction targets by 2020.

There is no doubt that momentum is building around the Green Deal, even though there is still a need for confirmation on how the financing mechanisms behind this pay-as-you-save energy-efficiency initiative will work. Additionally, there is still on-going work to be done relating to The Green Deal’s ‘Golden Rule’.

This says that the savings accrued from energy-efficiency measures should be greater than the additional cost of the measures. The cost will be applied to the property owner or tenant’s electricity bill, but the total bill should still be lower than before the measures were installed.

From my perspective, however, an issue of paramount importance is that of quality. Much installation work will be taking place under the Green Deal umbrella, with an anticipated 65,000 jobs set to be created by this energy efficiency programme.

That means training up a Green Deal work force that will tackle the process required by the Green Deal – of a site visit by an accredited Green Deal Assessor, the preparation of a Green Deal Advice Report recommending energy efficiency measures (selected from an approved list of Green Deal measures) and then the installation work and preparation of the finance package to sit behind each individual arrangement.

The quality of the advice and workmanship behind the Green Deal is vital to the whole initiative, so various quality control measures should be in place to ensure that every installation meets the standards expected of it. Without such controls in place, Green Deal supporters could be left red-faced.

I have voiced an opinion in round table discussions with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change that installation training should be mapped to National Occupations Standards, to ensure that an appropriate amount of training is given on each technology, which can only enhance the Green Deal scheme and provide extra reassurance for participants.

The Green Deal specifies 45 different measures, so it is highly unlikely that any one tradesperson will have the cross-functional expertise and full skills set to cover them all. A whole host of skilled tradespeople will need to acquire new skills, in order to keep the programme on track, while the training of new entrants to the market will also be key.

Green Deal Assessors are already required to train in line with National Occupation Standards, so why should this not also be true of the installers actually implementing the measures within properties and acting in the role of front-line Green Deal personnel?

I also feel it important that MCS (Micro Certification Scheme) practitioners do not automatically acquire PAS 2030 accreditation. Those organisations wishing to benefit from Green Deal employment should be asked to comply with PAS 2030 qualifications and standards. Only then will we have quality at all levels within the Green Deal delivery structure.

The Green Deal presents a marvellous opportunity for young people to enter the job market as skilled tradespeople, taking advantage of the green economy. We are already seeing many young people enquiring about our Green Deal training courses and there is no doubt that there is an appetite to learn how to implement the various technologies specified by the Green Deal. There is also evidence of tradespeople being ready to up-skill to step up a rung on the Green Deal ladder and become Assessors.

Training is integral to the Green Deal not just now, but in the future too, with there being a need to refresh training on a regular basis, just to keep pace with the continuing advance in green technologies that we are seeing, as well as keeping abreast of associated legislative and software changes.

If we can build continuous professional development into the Green Deal, we will have a greater assurance that quality will be delivered and continue to be delivered in the future.

To maintain the Green Deal’s credibility, we also require tighter regulation within the green installation sector and a more intense level of monitoring and scrutiny of companies operating in the industry. We do not wish to see The Green Deal tarnished by malpractice and inadequate workmanship, as these are fundamental to the property owner’s trust and faith in this energy efficiency initiative.

In short, we have a lot to do when it comes to equipping our workforce with the skills required to deliver excellence and quality installations. While, at face value, the Green Deal appears to be all about delivery at the coalface, it is what happens in the training room that may well determine its fate.

Philip Hargreaves is the executive chairman of low carbon services and solutions provider, Inteb Sustainability Limited.

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