When the government opened its Green Homes Grant scheme on 30th September 2020, it was hoping that 600,000 homes across England to take advantage of the £2bn pot on offer by the end of March 2021.
Vouchers (grants) of up to £5,000 are availble (£10,000 for those on benefits) to fund up to two-thirds of the cost of home improvement works that aid energy efficiency. As of 5th February 2021, just 2,623 homes have benefited from the scheme.
A further 21,056 vouchers have been issued for work to be done – which does not mean 21,056 actual houses, because an application can contain several measures, with each measure having a separate voucher.
Six weeks after the scheme started it was already apparent that not much work was going to get done in the six-month window allowed for the scheme. So in mid November, the government announced that it would let it run for a further year, to the end of March 2022.
Part of the problem is that to qualify for a grant, the work can only be done by a tradesperson or busines that is both TrustMark registered and has either Microgeneration Certification Scheme or Publicly Accessible Standards certification. And only certain installations can get a grant – insulation and heat pumps are fine but not double glazing or a new boiler, unless you get one of the primary measures done first.
Only 929 companies have qualified as registered installers across the whole country. A further 384 are going through the process; 356 have failed.
New figures released by the government show that in the first four months of the scheme, a total of 2,766 primary measures have been installed: 2,441 for insulation (of which 1,082 were for loft insulation and 743 were cavity wall insulation); and 325 for low carbon heat (155 air source heat pumps, 133 solar thermal).
Only 11 secondary measures have benefitted from the scheme: 10 heating controls and one house managed to get a grant for double/triple glazing.
The numbers also show that more than 100,000 vouchers have been applied for (roughly 59% for insulation, 17% low carbon heat, 17% double/triple glazing and 7% heating controls). However, only 21,056 vouchers have been issued. (16,206 for insulation, 3,520 for low carbon heat.)
Philip Dunne MP, chair of the House of Commons environmental audit committee, said earlier this month: “The principle of the Green Homes Grant should be commended. It is a timely initiative not only to boost energy efficiency of homes – which is urgently needed to stem carbon emissions – but to address our growing unemployment crisis triggered by the pandemic. But unless overhauled and further extended, this scheme will fail to deliver its ambition. Issuing vouchers is continuing at snail’s pace, with only 20,000 of the 600,000 target issued four months in – at this rate it will take over 10 years to fulfil the government’s expectation."
The Federation of Master Builders, for whose members home improvement works represent their daily bread and butter, the poor take up of the scheme demonstrates the need for a longer-term strategy to upgrade the energy efficiency of the nation’s housing stock rather than the current smash ‘n grab approach.
FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “The government will not succeed in achieving its green industrial revolution with a short-term plan like the Green Homes Grant scheme, which today’s figures show is putting off both builders and consumers. The government needs to think bigger and bolder and back a long-term national retrofit strategy, that sets out an ambitious delivery plan to cut carbon emissions from all our homes, and the Budget is the perfect opportunity to do so.”
He added: “The government will clearly be disappointed that a scheme designed to create 100,000 new jobs has fewer than 1,000 building companies on board. A flash in the pan policy doesn’t give small builders the confidence they need to invest in the necessary accreditations and training. That household applications for grants peaked in October is concerning and suggests the negative press around this scheme is taking its toll.”