After a protracted ‘soft-launch’, the Green Deal scheme has officially launched to the public today.

The coalition’s flagship energy scheme will allow houses across England and Wales to install energy efficiency measures for no upfront cost. The measures are paid for by savings on utility bills, with the cost of repayments no more than the savings generated by the installed measures.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, today hailed the scheme’s potential to help “thousands of homes stay warm for less”. He said: “The UK green sector is a success story – it is the sixth largest in the world and has a crucial part to play in building a strong economy. The Green Deal will support thousands of jobs – not just over the next few years, but in the long term.”

However, the Green Deal has come under heavy criticism for its “rip off interest rates” since they were revealed on Friday. Announcing the interest rates, the Green Deal Finance Company (TGDFC) confirmed that the initial interest rate will start at 6.96% and rise to 7.96% for a 10-year loan.

Labour’s Shadow Climate Change Minister, Luciana Berger warned: “The whole point of the Green Deal is that households are meant to save money on their energy bills – but with rip off interest rates, hidden charges and penalty payments the Green Deal could end up costing people more than they save. With sky-high interest rates it’s hard to see how the Green Deal will be anything other than a bad deal for the public.” 

The launch of the Green Deal has also been marred by research that suggests that 81% of the British public had not even heard of the Green Deal. To combat this issue, government’s £2.9 million communications campaign also goes live today. The nationwide campaign will urge consumers to ‘Green Deal with it’ in order to lower their bills and keep their house warm.

Commenting on the launch, Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker said: “The Green Deal will transform the energy efficiency market and puts consumers in charge. It’s a fantastic new scheme that will allow people to make their homes warmer and save energy at the same time. And it’s not just consumers who will benefit. The Green Deal is also great for business, creating a new market and new jobs. I’m truly excited about the potential the Green Deal has to transform Britain’s buildings.”