Retailers jump in to grab merchant sales

Published:  08 October, 2010

UK: High street retailers including Tesco, B&Q and M&S are among companies that could sell loft insulation and home energy improvements as part of the Government's energy-efficiency programme.

Large retailers are in talks with ministers about selling loft insulation and other home energy improvements under the Government's 'green deal'.

Ministers believe that around 14 million of the country's 27 million homes could be fitted with energy- saving measures in the next decade, along with offices and other buildings owned by small and medium-sized companies.

Ministers are considering how to persuade homeowners to take part in the flagship scheme – which could lead to incentives such as a rebate on council tax or stamp duty.

Climate minister Greg Barker welcomed the interest of major retailers, telling one meeting at this weeks's Conservative Party conference: "Often these retailers know better how to engage with customers than the large energy companies."

But campaigners said there were concerns that the profits required by private companies would make the scheme too expensive, and they would focus on insulation, which has the quickest payback, ignoring more expensive measures such as replacing inefficient boilers.

Details of the initiative, under which companies would install energy efficiency products and the homeowner would pay them back over up to 20 years – though savings in energy bills – are expected in a Bill later this autumn.

However, Mr Barker said yesterday that the Government might need to offer incentives to encourage participation. "We're aware there are many difficulties in persuading people to take up this stuff," he said, citing those who "could not be bothered", did not have time to plan and supervise the work, or were nervous about poor workmanship.

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