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Top DIY chains in discussions with Whitehall to join Green Deal

Leading DIY retailers are in talks with Whitehall on how to set up schemes to allow them to cash in on the Coalition’s ‘Green Deal’ being launched next year.

The strategies include offering homeowners the chance to form buying groups to get discounts on environmentally friendly home improvements, as well as loft clearance schemes, free vouchers to spend in stores and tax breaks.

Chains such as B&Q, Homebase and Wickes are holding regular talks with the Government about the schemes, which it is hoped will help promote the Coalition initiative to cut carbon emissions through making homes more energy-efficient, and boost employment.

This weekend B&Q is launching a trial with Kingston and Merton local authorities in south-west London offering homeowners the opportunity to bulk-buy loft and cavity wall insulation.

Discounts can be up to 25 per cent if five householders approach the retailer together.

A separate B&Q trial in nearby Sutton later this month aims to bypass the problem of cluttered lofts preventing insulation work being carried out. A subsidised service will be offered to clear the loft and replace belongings once work is complete.

Homebase is expected to begin its own trials later this year in the north of England.

The plans could become essential to the Green Deal’s success as it is still not clear how the Government intends to fund the home upgrades.
One possibility is to offer loans tied to a particular address, which are paid off over long periods via utility bills.

Meanwhile, solar panel companies are gearing up for a massive sales boom over the next seven months before the Government slashes energy subsidies. At present, homeowners can earn 44.3p per kilowatt hour for electricity generated from solar panels on the roof, in addition to being able to use as much of the energy they generate for free.

They can earn on average just over £1,100 a year on panels that cost about £10,000 for an averagesized roof, an 11 per cent return on capital.

But in April next year the Government will reduce the rate drastically as the price of solar panels drops – it has fallen 20 per cent in the past 12 months alone.

Howard Johns, chairman of the Solar Trade Association, said: ‘We are now in an absolute sweet spot.The prices of solar panels are coming down, but the Government subsidies are still high. But this cannot last and we expect the new rates to come down sharply to reflect the lower prices in the industry.’

The purpose of the generous Government rate was to encourage the fledgling solar industry – and it has worked.

There are now 60,000 homes with solar panels compared with only 30,000 a year ago and there are 3,000 solar retailers compared with just 500 two years ago.

Store groups outside the usual home improvement sector, such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer, already sell solar panels, though they remain small players in the market.

A spokesman for B&Q said that the Government’s plans to achieve greater carbon reduction through more energy-efficient homes would also require a large network of tradesmen to succeed.

Source : Neil Craven and Tom McGhie – This is

04 September 2011
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Thank you for the excellent presentation that you gave at Woodbury Park on Thursday morning. It was very interesting and thought-provoking for our Retail members. The feedback has been excellent.

Martin Elliott. Chief Executive - Home Hardware.

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