Roof caves in on Garrett’s green house plan

 

PricewaterhouseCoopers has been hired to audit the operations of the Environment Department and the accreditation body for assessors.

Under the scheme, households first apply for an assessment for energy- and water-saving measures, then they can later apply for a zero-interest loan to pay for measures such as the installation of solar panels.

But the scheme has been racked with problems as demand for household assessments surged, with 205,000 booked in less than a year. Original forecasts for the scheme predicted 360,000 bookings that were expected to take four years to complete.

The 5000 assessors accredited under Green Loans have also complained about inconsistent access to the government’s hotline to book assessments.

At Senate estimates last night the secretary of the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Robyn Kruk, said it was operating with ”significant challenges”.

A Greens senator, Christine Milne, told the hearing she had been contacted by dozens of assessors about late payments, which meant businesses had to take out bridging loans.

Ms Kruk admitted that payments to assessors, which the government stated would be made in 30 days, has been ”too low and too slow”, blaming the surge in demand.

Departmental officials also revealed that the department had no requests for loans last week even though close to 22,000 household assessments were undertaken in the week.

The Government has set aside money for 70,000 loans over four years and expected 20,000 loans to be taken this year. So far 1000 have been approved.

Mr Garrett’s decision to suspend foil batts from the rebate scheme came after an audit of 1000 homes in Queensland found that 2 per cent of those installed with foil batts had live electricity running through the ceiling because of the installation.

Installation of foil batts has been linked to three deaths in Queensland, the latest a 25-year-old worker electrocuted while working in a ceiling at Millaa Millaa, southwest of Cairns.

To date 37,000 houses have been installed with foil batts under the $1200 rebate scheme. Master Electricians Australia said 460 households could have live ceilings.

Yesterday the opposition environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, called for a full judicial inquiry into whether there was any correlation between the Queensland deaths and the insulation program. He said all households fitted with foil batts should be audited immediately.

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