Following speculation that the Green Homes Grant is to be cut short and funds withdrawn, is it still worthwhile applying?

 Two air source heat pumps provide space heating and solar thermal panels provide hot water, souparchitects.com

Image: Two air source heat pumps provide heating for this house designed by Soup Architects

Five months after the Green Homes Grant (GHG) scheme was launched in September 2020, figures released by the government show that just 2,600 homes had energy-efficiency measures or low-carbon heating installed by the end of January 2021. Originally set to run until March 2021, the scheme was extended to 31 March 2022. Even so, if this rate of project completion continues, fewer than 12,000 homes will have benefited from the initiative by the end date – far below the potential 600,000 households mentioned by the government.

Insulation has been the most popular measure, making up 88 per cent of the installations, with low-carbon heating such as air-source heat pumps and solar thermal panels comprising just 12 per cent.

Rate of uptake

 Mitsubishi Ecodan Electric Air Source Heat Pump

Image: The Mitsubishi Ecodan Air Source Heat Pump has a heat output of 8.5kW, les.mitsubishielectric.co.uk 

With £2 billion of government funds originally allocated for private homes and a further £1 billion for public housing, the wider scope of the initiative was to upgrade the UK’s existing housing stock as means of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and reduce fuel poverty in low-income households.

‘More than 26,000 Green Homes Grant vouchers worth £110 million have already been issued, helping us improve the energy efficiency of homes,’ says a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). ‘We continue to work with the scheme’s administrator to ensure voucher applications are processed as quickly as possible.’

Too few installers

The scheme was promoted as a way to create work for accredited tradespeople, but it has been criticised by homeowners and industry organisations alike for the low numbers of certified installers.

‘The government will clearly be disappointed that a scheme designed to create 100,000 new jobs has fewer than 1,000 building companies on board. A flash-in-the-pan policy doesn’t give small builders the confidence they need to invest in the necessary accreditations and training,’ says Brian Berry, CEO of the Federation of Master Builders.

According to the heat pump industry, the GHG has succeeded in raising consumer awareness of low-carbon heating. But following media reports that the initiative is to have funds withdrawn and will be cut short, it is calling on the chancellor to retain the scheme, and to either roll over unspent funds into 2021-22, or to otherwise increase the second year budget. It also wants BEIS and the Treasury to work with the industry to review and reform the initiative’s terms and conditions so that more companies see the merit in supporting it.

‘Under appropriate commercial conditions, uptake in participation by installers will climb. Awareness and demand from the public is there to be serviced and we see very little evidence of homeowners not wanting heat pump engineers in their homes as a result of the pandemic,’ says Bean Beanland of the Heat Pump Federation. ‘As with all government interventions, give the industry an extended period of stable policy and the heat pump sector will deliver growth, training and secure new employment.’

Payment delays

The grant is paid to installers on satisfactory completion of the approved work, but with some installers having experienced a delay in payment, reluctance to commit to gaining TrustMark accreditation, along with the cost of doing so, may be an ongoing issue. ‘To ensure the highest standards of service, ministers have asked the scheme administrator to pay money owed to installers and sort the processing of applications as a matter of urgency,’ says a BEIS spokesperson.

Can I still apply?

But where does this leave those who want to benefit from the grant? Currently, the scheme is still open, and applications are still being processed. If you’re able to find an accredited installer to carry out work for which your home is eligible, the advice is to go ahead without delay.

Search for a TrustMark-registered installer for the qualifying improvements you want by using the tradesperson database, and check your eligibility for the scheme on the government’s Green Homes Grant page.

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MORE ARTICLES

Green Homes Grant: guide to air source heat pumps

Government extends Green Homes Grant by a year as part of eco jobs drive

Calls to extend Green Homes Grant scheme as vouchers will not be issued until November

How to spend the Green Homes Grant according to a retrofit architect

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