The Government has pulled the plug on its Green Homes Grant energy efficiency scheme, just days after MPs slammed it as ‘woefully inadequate’.

FIRST ANNOUNCED LAST summer, the Green Homes Grant, funding for whihc has now been rescinded, was a voucher scheme towards the cost of installing energy efficient improvements to domestic dwellings.

The scheme was extended in November for another year until the end of March 2022. It was supposed to form part of the Government’s plans to help rebuild the economy better and ‘greener’, yet it reached just 10% of the 600,000 homes it was aimed at.

The £300m left in the fund for this year has now been switchedto a separate insulation programme run by local authorities and which will be aimed at lower income households. Some 19 million homes in the UK still need to be insulated if the UK government is t stand any chnace of achieving its climate change targets. Just days before the scheme was axed, the Environmental Audit Select Committee said that the scheme was so inept that it could actually damage the building sector. The report says: “The impact of botched implementation of the GHG has had devastating consequences on many of the builders and installers that can do the work, who have been left in limbo as a result of the orders cancelled and time taken to approve applications.”

The committee also warned that the government may have underestimated the costs to decarbonise UK homes by 2050, by between £35bn and £65bn. Matthew Pennycook MP, the shadow minister for climate change, said: “Ministers might talk a good


game on energy efficiency but their staggering ineptitude when it comes to decarbonising the country’s housing stock speaks for itself”. Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “The misguided scrapping of the Green Homes Grant scheme sends entirely the wrong message to consumers and builders, and will harm the UK’s desire to be seen as a global leader in tackling climate change. Flaws with the scheme should have been addressed, in consultation with industry, with a commitment to training. Instead, we have another example of a stop-go green initiative that undermines, rather than creates, certainly for both the public and installers.” He added that the Government needs to be more ambitious in its thinking and set out a long-term plan to upgrade existing homes to make them greener and more energy efficient.

“A national retrofit strategy would address this need and allow the Government to be taken seriously as well as regain the trust of industry. Small, local builders who have spent thousands of pounds becoming eligible for work under the scheme rightly feel let down and angry. Without these workers on the Government’s side, we will fail to retrofit our 28 million existing homes, missing the opportunities for green growth, new jobs, and to level up.”

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at UKGBC described the decision as an “absolute travesty” and that it had created yet another roadblock for decarbonising the country’s 29 million homes.

“We have been left speechless by this news, which comes just days after the Environmental Audit Committee sent a clear message to government that if we are to meet our legally binding target to be net zero carbon by 2050, urgent action is needed to improve energy efficiency of homes this decade.” Ahe said that, from start to finish the scheme had been beset by problems of Government’s own making, but added that these problems should have been fixed; instead, they were used to justify its scrapping.

“In the year of the UK hosting COP26, this is not the sort of example we wanted to be setting for the world – a lesson in precisely how not to do policy making in this vital sector. With a stream of crucial policies coming down the pipeline for construction and property in the next few months and years, lessons must be learnt as soon as possible and these mistakes not repeated. “Government is now emphasising the role of local authorities in delivering retrofit and there is absolutely no doubt that they have a key role to play. But they need the certainty of a national retrofit strategy within which to operate locally, and they need to be given financial support and the freedom to innovate. Retrofit has a clear role to play in both levelling-up and driving a green-recovery at the local level, but this requires a genuine partnership approach,” she said.

NFRC CEO James Talman said

that he was not surprised about the decision: “Despite warnings from industry, the Scheme did not work for the businesses that were expected to deliver it. The system was far too bureaucratic, costly, and time-consuming. This meant that instead of it boosting order books, it actually led to some roofers losing work, and for others delaying projects.”

He agrees with others that a long- term retrofit plan is still needed for the millions of homes in the UK that need upgrading to meet the UK’s net-zero targets. “The government must learn lessons from the failed Green Homes Grant Scheme and fully consult with industry to find a scheme that works for all.” Insulation specialist Actis has welcomed the allocation of £500 million towards reducing carbon emissions in 50,000 social housing and low-income households across England and Scotland.

Actis UK and Ireland sales director Mark Cooper said the move was an important step towards helping improve the thermal efficiency of some of the UK’s poorest performing homes.

“Improving insulation is a pretty crucial element in enabling the nation to reduce its carbon emissions. It makes financial sense to ensure that the existing building fabric is as energy efficient as possible before spending resources on other measures. Insulation is generally among the most cost effective and long-lasting measures, and thus the best investment.”BMJ April 2021

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