Five ways to save the Green Homes Grant from total failure

We’ve seen stories in the past couple of weeks about the terrible mess that the Green Homes Grant is in so here are five ways we think it can be saved from total failure.

The £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme was launched – some say rushed out – by the Government last September with a big fanfare, being touted as the flagship of the national green recovery strategy.

Of the total money pot, £1.5 billion was earmarked for homeowners and £500 million for local authorities. The aim was, and still should be, to give householders the resources and encouragement to make their homes less carbon intensive.

The scheme funds up to two-thirds of home energy efficiency improvement costs, including heat pumps, insulation and solar thermal solutions but it has been dogged by problems, not least a shortage of suppliers/installers willing to sign up and long delays in application approvals and payments for improvement works carried out.

Voucher target

And last week the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said that the scheme would take over a decade to meet the target of providing vouchers for 600,000 households.

The scheme took another big knock with reports that the Treasury was taking back perhaps up to £1 billion from the overall funding pot. As of this January, only 20,000 vouchers had been issued with just £71.3 million being actually spent – less than 5% of the £1.5 billion – and long delays in payment.

There are reports that some homeowners who applied at the very start of the scheme are still waiting for grants to be approved after nearly five months, while some accredited engineers say they have had to lay off staff due to delays in payment of tens of thousands of pounds.

The Green Homes Grant is too important to just be left to fizzle out. I think the Government can focus on five ways to help the scheme – and other parts of the green recovery – to fully deliver on promises.

  1. It is absolutely crucial that the Government makes green commitments and then ensures they are implemented correctly. The Green Homes Grant and other incentives have been poorly run, which is where the issues have occurred, not because the principle or idea is wrong. If the scheme was simple to apply for and installers were paid promptly then more and more would join the scheme.
  2. Many installers were initially hesitant to join the scheme and get approval because of poor and slow payments for other government incentives such as the EV charger grants provided by the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles – now the Office for Zero Emissions Vehicles (OZEV). That hesitancy has just been confirmed as we see with the scheme attracting lower numbers than had been expected, together with poor administration. It not certain quite why this has happened – it could be that the contract for running the scheme might have been better served by another company, closer to home. The current contract is with an American firm.It might also have something to do with staffing levels – there is a record of state schemes being inadequately resourced. But there is little excuse for poor staffing levels to correctly deal with this as there are lots of people out of work at the moment.
  3. Change building regulations for all new builds so that solar and low carbon heating is a requirement. This would bring the cost of these technologies down even further as there would be a guaranteed market for years to come that manufacturers could tap into. This change could also include anyone doing major works to their home.
  4. Government should encourage mortgage companies to preapprove consumers to install these carbon-saving technologies in their home, as well as improvements to insulation and better quality windows. All of these will reduce the consumers’ costs so that over a number of years of a mortgage, the consumer would be cash positive while the lenders would also earn extra interest. The risk to the lender would be low as costs would be reduced and it would increase the value of the home.
  5. Increase the minimum EPC rating of homes and businesses to be rented out. This would encourage landlords to improve the quality of housing being rented.

Also, while it may not be the easiest thing to do I think the Government should ensure that all traditional incandescent bulbs and halogen lamps are finally removed from sale. There is an EU ban in place but it is still easy to buy these energy-guzzling lights.

And personally, I think the smart-meter rollout should be paused. I don’t believe that the technology will deliver on its promise of encouraging more energy efficiency. I am now on my second smart meter at home – and it still doesn’t work. I would argue that the whole scheme has been a massive waste of money, which can be redirected to more effective carbon-reduction programmes.

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