Nick Clegg will today announce new ways to get households and businesses energy efficient and to cut their energy bills.
In a major speech on energy
to be delivered at Canary Wharf the Deputy Prime Minister will say the Government is working with Green Deal
providers to introduce "innovative solutions" to take the "hassle" out of the Government’s flagship energy efficiency
programme launching in the autumn.
He will also announce a new deal struck with the Big Six energy firms that will require them to inform their customers of their cheapest tariff at least once a year, saving households up to £100 a year.
And he will counter claims that greening the economy and people’s lifestyles is unaffordable in tough economic times.
"While sceptics say that it’s all too difficult at a time of deep fiscal consolidation and that economic uncertainty poses too many challenges, I say periods of economic reinvention force us to do things differently. I say that lean times can be green times too.
"As we learn to live within our economic means we can learn to live within our environmental means too. To do that, we have to stop treating the environment like an add on; an afterthought. We must show that, in so many ways, consumer interests, business interests and green interests are the same. We have to give people the practical help to make more sustainable choices. We must do everything we can to ensure that the benefits and opportunities created by going green are clear."
He will acknowledge consumers have been put off green policies
because of the recession and that the Government has a role to play to get them engaged.
"Greening our lifestyles and decarbonising our economy is the right thing to do, economically speaking. But, for millions of people, it doesn’t always feel like the easy thing to do, especially now."
Removing the "hassle factor"
One way to make it easier for consumers, he will say, will be to take the "hassle factor" out of getting properties energy efficient. He will point to a pilot the Government has been working on with Green Deal provider B&Q and Sutton Council to encourage householders to get their lofts insulated by offering them a loft clearance service at the same time.
"B&Q clear your loft for you, you go through your belongings while they install the insulation, they put back the things you want to keep and everything else gets taken to Cancer Research shops to be sold.
"The first trial found that people were three times more likely to go for this than straight insulation," he will say.
Clegg will also reveal the Government is undertaking a new trial this summer with energy firm First Utility and US company OPower to raise awareness among consumers about how much energy they are using buy comparing their usage with other similar households in their area.
"Working with US utilities, OPower has helped encourage American households to reduce consumption by around two per cent," he will say. "That may not sound a lot, but it soon adds up. In the States, OPower has helped reach around 11 million homes, so far saving them around $85 million.
"We want to see what the same approach could achieve here."
And he will say that households and businesses that take up the Green Deal will not start paying for energy efficiency
improvements before the work has been completed.
"Customers will have energy saving measures installed in their homes by trusted suppliers, from high street brands to local traders. However, they will only begin paying for those improvements once they’re complete. Payment will be made through their bills, over a period of time and they shouldn’t be out of pocket because their homes will be more energy efficient, allowing them to save on their energy bills each month."
In another move to get household energy bills down, Clegg will say the Government has secured "a landmark deal" with the Big Six energy companies – British Gas, E.ON, EDF, Southern, Scottish Power and npower – to give customers "a guaranteed offer" of the best tariff for them at least once a year.
He will say that currently seven out of 10 people are on the wrong deal and are paying too much, but people rarely switch.
"That is going to change. As of this Autumn, your supplier will have to contact you with the best tariff for your needs. And if you call them, they’ll have to offer you the best deal too."
Clegg will say the Government is also working with energy companies to put special barcodes on energy bills so consumers can scan them with their smartphone to get quotes and switch tariff or supplier "in a matter of minutes".