Concerns mount over Green Homes Grant

There are growing concerns as to whether the new Green Homes Grant scheme can succeed in supporting the 100,000 jobs and improving energy usage in the 600,000 existing homes which Chancellor Rishi Sunak originally promised when he announced it.

The grants will not begin until late this month. All related work under the £2bn scheme needs to be completed and invoiced before next April. Work can be undertaken only by “installers accredited with TrustMark, working to specified standards with robust consumer protection practices.”

Concern is being expressed focussing upon the very restrictive range of measures that are deemed to qualify to help ordinary private sector householders (a separate scheme is available for social housing).

Initially, national newspaper and websites were told that permitted measures would be very wide-ranging. As well as insulation and heat pumps, these would include double, triple and secondary glazing of doors and windows, appliance thermostats and smart heating controls, modern lighting systems and high efficiency condensing boilers.

However, in late August a final definitive eligible product list was published on the relevant government website, “Simple Energy Advice”. This entirely excluded any assistance for the installation of both lighting systems or new boilers of any kind. Both of these energy-saving options have considerable numbers of trained and skilled installers already available. All of these people can now play no part in the process.  

Similarly, those in the glazing and heating controls industries – again including thousands of trained, experienced operatives – are permitted to install only “secondary measures”. These can only be included if at least one of the primary measures have already been commissioned. And, crucially, “secondary measures” can only be “subsidised up to the cash amount of subsidy provided for a primary measure.”

So even though grants may be available worth up to £5,000 per home, if a household receives £1,000 to pay for primary measures, they can qualify for only a maximum of £1,000 towards any “secondary measures”. And in all cases, the householder must pay at least one-third of the costs.

There are two categories of “primary” measures. These are low-carbon heat, predominantly air source and ground source heat pumps. Last year, just 30,000 heat pumps were installed in homes in Britain. In contrast, around 1.6m condensing gas boilers were put in, with very different training required.

While the Government website states clearly that “for low-carbon heating to be installed, households will need to have adequate insulation”, it is unclear how this requirement – seldom currently promoted by heat pump manufacturers - is to be enforced.

All forms of insulation are rated as “primary” measures, except curiously hot water tank insulation. Included is underfloor heating, for which there is no established retrofitting industry operating outside major building refurbishments.

The Committee on Climate Change has warned that the numbers currently employed in installing established retrofit installation measures for lofts, roofs and cavity walls has fallen by over 90 per cent since 2012. Currently, there is no commitment at all to continue with any energy-saving stimulus programme after March 2021.

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