Green Homes Grant: A step towards net-zero

Following last week’s announcement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, about the launch of the ‘Green Homes Grant’, which will helpimprove the energy efficiency of existing housing and other buildings, reduce fuel bills, and create green jobs, the Insulation Manufacturers Association (IMA) says this scheme “needs to be part of a much-bigger and longer-term strategy to improve our underperforming housing stock and meet our net-zero targets”.

The £2 billion grants available under the Green Homes Grant form part of a wider £3 billion green investment package announced in the Chancellor’s summer economic update statement to support efforts to rebuild the UK economy post-COVID-19.

The funding programme will also involve insulation in public buildings, such as schools and hospitals and retrofitting low carbon heating technology to social housing. Whilst, sadly, 8.5 million homes in the rental sector are excluded, the treasury has said at least 140,000 jobs will be supported by this new green recovery scheme.

A spokesperson from the IMA said: “We cautiously welcome the government’s announcement, which is an essential step towards the improvement of existing housing. Good insulation, properly installed, is the most cost-effective way to save energy in homes and buildings. However, this one-year retrofit scheme has a limited timeframe and cannot simply be a one-off. It is crucial that further incentives for energy saving are planned and introduced immediately after this one comes to an end. As with all these initiatives, the devil will be in the detail.”

The issue of quality control and accountability will be extremely important throughout this scheme, says the IMA. “It will be critical that all energy saving measures are professionally and correctly installed by accredited installers and perform to the required standard intended. These retrofit measures must also contribute to the government’s longer-term aim of bringing all homes up to EPC Band C by 2035.

“The role of PIR and PUR insulation in achieving energy efficient buildings, and therefore a sustainable future, must not be underplayed. By using PIR insulation with its high thermal efficiency, it will make a difference between a building’s success or its failure.”

With UK housing among the coldest and least efficient in Europe, many insulation manufacturers, from individual companies to trade bodies, are fully committed to adopting sustainable design and installation methods to help deliver better-performing buildings and help the UK achieve the ambitions of its net-zero climate change targets.

The IMA added: “Whether newbuild or retrofitting, everyone has a right to live in a healthy home, fully insulated, with better ventilation, windows and doors and more efficient heating systems. This is essential if the UK is to meet the net-zero target. 

“We look forward to more to come from government, not just in terms of addressing our energy-deficient rental sector, but also in terms of ensuring the quality and energy performance of the whole of our housing stock.”

Meanwhile, whilst welcoming the announcement of the £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme, Neil Marshall, an independent energy efficiency consultant, is calling on the government to set up a new independent advisory board to advise on the scheme’s design, implementation and auditing process.

Neil said: “The £2 billion investment by government provides the opportunity to transform the nation’s housing stock, eradicate fuel poverty, provide warm and comfortable homes for people to live in, which are cheaper to run, combat climate change and create thousands of new jobs.

“However, the ‘devil is in the detail’, and the design of the scheme will determine its success. It is critical therefore that the government and industry take the learnings from the different schemes run over the past 20 years and combine the best of them to create a world leading programme to upgrade the nations homes.

“To facilitate this the government should establish a new Green Homes Grant independent advisory board without delay.”

Since the government’s announcement last week, Neil is intending to arrange a workshop, which will involve a number of key industry players, to develop proposals on who should be involved in the independent advisory board and the scope of works for consideration by the Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.