Vote winner: does this work?

I've been meaning to post this for a while but have only got round to it. I reckon it could a bit of a vote winner for one of the UK political parties in the run up to the election this year. Some context first…I'll try and keep it short.

In France – where I own a property – the government is keen to encourage people to make their houses as energy efficient as possible. It does this by giving you money back when you install specific types of energy efficient or environmentally beneficial stuff. The list is long…from wood-burning stoves to double-glazing to heat-exchangers to solar panels. The cash you get back from the government can be up to 40% of the cost. It's a genuine incentive.

To add to this incentive, my French bank, Société Générale, will offer a 10-year, interest-free loan to anyone that can demonstrate that they'll use the cash to do two or more energy efficient things to their property.

So, get this. We've been talking to Société Générale about a loan to cover the cost of installing wood-burning stoves and double-glazing. Total cost is about 30,000 euros and it seems the loan's not a problem. So an interest-free loan of 30k spread over 10 years. Not bad. Even better, of course, when you consider that we'll be getting a cheque back from the French government for somewhere around 10,000 euros, which we can obviously use for anything we like (including paying off a chunk of the loan).

It's bloody brilliant, and I'm already thinking about what else we might be able to do to make the place a bit more green. Which has got to be a good thing, no?

From the bank's perspective it's a great way of deepening a customer relationship and enhancing reputation. It also means that people are adding value to properties many of which will probably also be mortgaged by Société Générale, which must reduce the bank's exposure to negative equity in the future.

So, here's my UK vote winner.

Why doesn't one of the UK political parties commit to making the Royal Bank of Scotland put aside £1 billion to be made available as 10-year interest-free loans to people making energy efficient improvements to their homes? That would be 50,000 loans of £20k, by my reckoning.

This would be good for a number of reasons:

1. It would be a decent thing for RBS to do, given the public owns it
2. People would increase the value of their properties
3. The environmental/energy efficiency benefits would be significant
4. There'd be an economic boost to the building trade and it would create some jobs

Or am I talking rubbish?

8 thoughts on “Vote winner: does this work?”

  1. Bloody good idea

    Have been really impressed with French property incentives since we bought a place in Tignes a few years back. Lots done to encourage people to make their homes modern, energy efficient and occupied.

    Living in Cornwall and seeing a lot of houses empty for half the year/run down and inefficient, a scheme like this would make a MASSIVE difference. Since this is a LibDem zone…also a good opportunity for one of the other parties to capitalise….

  2. Becky – think you’re right, but I don’t really mind who picks it up, it just makes sense. In fact, the winning party should just nick the idea whatever.

    Dawnie, stop it.

  3. While not funded specifically by RBS, the government has already put in place a pilot to look at just this kind of funding:

    You could argue that it’s a bit late to be running a pilot and that something should be in place by now but the government has realised that once we get to 2015 and everyone’s replaced their lightbulbs with energy efficient ones and those that can have installed cavity wall insulation, there’s still a long way to go to meet the 2050 targets to which the Government has committed. The Pay As You Save scheme will provide cheap loans for homeowners to fund things like solid wall insulation, double glazing and even solar / thermal heating.

    It’s a start but at least it’s a start.

    Sound like I know something about it? I wrote all the comms for the Energy Savings Trust for it…!

  4. I think you’re right Mark – it is too late to be running a pilot!

    My little scheme is already proven – it just needs the kick to RBS to put the money aside. And it needs to be a billion rather than £4m…I’ll settle for nothing less.

  5. The only flaw with this otherwise excellent plan is that it’s clearly far too sensible and practical to appeal to politicians.

    Yet more evidence of just how far ahead of UK thinking our Gallic cousins are. This government really has been fiddling whilst Rome burns – or, freezes, perhaps, given the Day After Tomorrow weather outside as I write this…

  6. The cost to the environment of manufacturing twice as much glass for double glazing and then replacing the windows when the seals break down releasing the gases they use between each panel makes double glazing more hazardous to our planet. Thicker curtains are more efficient and more sustainable. That’s if people can be bothered to get up and close them when it’s cold. The interest free loan idea is sound – we already have a crap version here in the UK – the energy saving trust I think. The problem is deciding what’s green and what’s pure green.

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