Green Homes Grant faces criticism over difficulties applying

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has written to Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, following its survey on early attempts to access the Green Homes Grant.

The EAC has requested details of what improvements will be made now that the scheme, which gives homeowners a £5,000 grant to fund up to two-thirds of the cost of home improvement works that aid energy efficiency, has been extended to March 2022.

The government said extending the £2 billion scheme will help more households and tradespeople benefit, as Britain builds back greener from the coronavirus pandemic. It also said the scheme creates new work for accredited tradespeople in green construction, supporting 100,000 jobs across the UK.

However, 86% of the 510 that responded to the survey, had a poor experience with the process, with just over half finding the Green Homes Grant eligibility calculator helpful.

Meanwhile, 75% of respondents found it difficult to find a TrustMark registered contractor to carry out the works, with responses describing how contractors were either unaware of the scheme or were not prepared to sign up to it.

The Federation of Master Builders endorsed this lack of engagement, indicating that the industry had not been consulted on design of the scheme.

Contractors who were TrustMark accredited for installations under the scheme have been inundated with requests, demonstrating a capacity problem which suggests the original target is at risk of not being met.

Furthermore, after checking eligibility and applying for the grant, many people experienced delays in receiving responses to their applications leading to some quotes expiring.

At the time of the survey being conducted between 2-16 November, six to eight weeks after the scheme was launched on 30 September, only 5.6% of respondents had received a voucher for energy efficiency measures to be installed.

Many found that they were unable to install the measures they required, with confusion over primary and secondary measures (with the eligibility for the latter requiring the former to have been installed).

The Committee heard during evidence by the UK Green Building Council that there was a problem with sequencing since draught-proofing and heating controls are secondary measures, which it would be wise to install prior to putting in a heat pump.

Philip Dunne MP, chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “The government’s initiative for the Green Homes Grant should be commended. However, if we are to succeed in carrying out the amount of energy efficiency upgrades in homes that are needed, it is already clear that the scheme is not going to achieve its initial targets.

“Homes emit an astonishing 20% of the UK’s CO2 emissions, and we cannot come close to reaching net-zero without seriously addressing energy efficiency concerns in our existing building stock.

“Now the scheme has been extended, which is very welcome, I hope the government learns from this initial feedback gleaned by my Committee.

“It must make swift improvements to reviewing applications promptly; ensuring there are enough TrustMark accredited contractors; and to clear up the confusion between primary and secondary measures.”