Green Homes Grant moving ‘at snail’s pace’

Installing solar panels

The House of Commons environmental audit committee (EAC) has solicited some detail from business minister Lord Callanan on the operation of the Green Homes Grant. And it’s not looking great.

Lord Callanan admitted that, as of 5th February, only 20,000 vouchers towards the cost of installing energy efficient improvements have been issued to homeowners or residential landlords. At the current rate, it would take over 10 years to meet the government’s target to issue vouchers to 600,000 households.

The Green Homes Grant scheme gives homeowners a £5,000 voucher to fund up to two-thirds of the cost of home improvement works that aid energy efficiency, such as insulation, double glazing or heat pumps. It opened on 30th September 2020 for an initial six months but has since been extended to March 2022.

The EAC conducted an online survey on the Green Homes Grant in November, collating feedback from those who had accessed the scheme. The shortage of accredited engineers registered with TrustMark, the government-endorsed quality scheme for Green Homes Grant installers, was highlighted as an obstacle. During an evidence session in November 2020, the EAC heard that 1,200 companies had registered with TrustMark. The minister has now confirmed that this number has only slightly increased two months later to 1,300 companies.

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Environmental audit committee chairman Philip Dunne said: “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. Many of the builders and installers that can do the work are in limbo as a result of the time taken to approve applications, and perversely we have heard evidence some are having to lay off skilled workers as orders have been stalled pending confirmation of vouchers. 

“This scheme has good potential. But it needs a radical overhaul now the scheme has been extended. It must streamline the application process by removing unnecessary bureaucracy and must make sure the supply of skills meets the demand that 600,000 vouchers, and a further boost by the chancellor in the March budget, would drive. By doing so, it could make large strides towards meeting other government commitments, such as installing 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.”

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