Industry figures and green home-improvement contractors have expressed apprehension over the brevity of the five-month window in which Green Homes Grant-funded projects can take place. 

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Image: Arpad Nagy-Bagoly

While initial enquiries for the Green Homes Grant scheme could be made at the start of September through the Simple Energy Advice website, and applications for funding are now accepted through the Green Homes Grant website, it has been revealed that vouchers will not be issued to applicants until early November. 

As part of the scheme, one of the government’s flagship policies for rejuvenating the economy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, homeowners and landlords in England are eligible for up to £5,000 in vouchers towards a list of approved energy-saving home improvements, while homes with inhabitants in receipt of certain government benefits may qualify for grants of up to £10,000. 

At present, however, all vouchers must be issued and work completed by a deadline of 31 March 2021, leading some to express concerns over the brevity of the scheme and its long-term implications. 

Read more: The Green Homes Grant hub

The National Insulation Association (NIA) is among those who have written to chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for the scheme to be extended. NIA chair Derek Horrocks said: ‘[We have] championed the Green Homes Grant scheme since it was first announced. However, we must now address the concerns being echoed across the sector. Four and a half months from the point at which the first vouchers will be issued is not enough time to deliver on the government’s aspirations for energy efficiency and job creation.’ 

The NIA also expressed concerned over the three-month validity of vouchers, especially heading into winter – a time of year that already creates weather challenges for the installation of green home improvements. 

Despite government estimates that some 650,000 households will make use of the Green Homes Grant scheme, a recent YouGov survey commissioned by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit found that 62 per cent of homeowners and renters polled were interested in the grant, which totals six million households potentially applying for the scheme. This has led to further concerns that demand will outstrip both the fund and the number of skilled tradespeople able to install the measures within this time period. 

Talking to Grand Designs magazine, Richard Hiblen, managing director of renewable home energy company Green Square, expressed his concerns over the sustainability of investing in new job roles. ‘The Green Homes Grant scheme is a welcomed incentive scheme to boost green jobs and lower CO2 from homes across England. However, with vouchers not released until November 2020 and a five-month window to install these measures, the scheme desperately needs to be increased for at least 12 months to allow companies to employ and train new staff in a sustainable way.’ 

In recent weeks, the government has pledged a dedicated fund to encourage training for installation of the energy-saving measures covered by the Green Homes Grant – launching a £6.9 million skills competition for companies able to create training programmes based in England. 

A spokesperson for TrustMark, the government-endorsed quality scheme that tradespeople are required to sign up to in order to be eligible to carry out Green Homes Grant-funded projects, told Grand Designs magazine: ‘Many sectors have identified that the delivery of the Green Home Grant voucher scheme in such a short time span is extremely challenging and, by default, this questions the reasoning for a business to invest into the requirements and deliver the scheme.’ 

Read more: Green Homes Grant: 5 tips for finding a tradesperson

‘We are working closely with industry to ensure there are enough installers to meet demand,’ a spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) told Grand Designs magazine. ‘Over 1,000 companies have signed up so far, with more registering every day, including many businesses that operate nationally with substantial capacity to carry out work across the country.’

The requirement to sign up to the TrustMark scheme, which entails paying a joining fee, has also been signalled as a barrier for many more tradespeople to be eligible to carry out work, especially at the start of the scheme when the potential uptake from the public was less clear than it is now. 

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Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: ‘It takes time for the building industry to ramp up capacity to delivery green upgrades, and the current long and costly process combined with the short duration of the Green Homes Grant is hampering uptake.’

However, the government believes that TrustMark accreditation must remain at the core of the scheme for consumer protection. ‘The delivery of quality remains a key aspect and while this may create some restrictions within the availability of businesses to complete the work it must be a key output that the consumer has work completed to the right level of quality, at the right standards and protected for the future,’ said a TrustMark spokesperson. 

Grand Designs magazine has recently entered into a partnership with the BEIS to champion the value of the Green Homes Grant scheme for homeowners in England. 

Homeowners and landlords should shop around for installers using the Simple Energy Advice installer finder tool. For businesses or tradespeople looking to participate in the Green Homes Grant, visit the website for further information. 

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