Green Homes Grant faces installer and efficiency problems

Heat pumps have outdoor units that look like this. Image credit: Ppntori via Wikimedia commons

Heat pumps have outdoor units that look like this. Image credit: Ppntori via Wikimedia commons

by ECOE director Alastair Mumford

The recent Green Homes Grant is a welcome initiative from what has been a reluctant government to deal with the UK’s poorly performing housing. But are there problems ahead?

The Green Homes Grant is a £2 billion initiative by the government that provides homeowners with a grant towards certain types of energy efficiency improvements, or the installation of heat pump technology. On the face of it, a voucher worth about two-thirds of the cost of the energy efficient improvements, up to a maximum of £5,000 per household, would seem a good thing. And considering the lack of government schemes to date it’s great to see them doing something – but it does have its issues.

Missing registration

Firstly, the scheme is planned to end in March 2021. This means that homeowners are going to have to be quick to benefit from the scheme. More importantly, it also means that businesses have to respond quickly and make investments in the qualifications needed to be a registered installer. For many this is a risky investment of time and money for what might be a short-term gain.

This has led to evidence of a lack of supply. Recently Martin Lewis from MoneySavingExpert ‘asked his one million Twitter followers if they had applied for, or were considering applying for, a green homes grant. The figures suggest that about 84% of those who have either applied or tried to have been unable to find a suitable installer.’ Homebuilding & Renovating have reported on the issue as well with Chrissie Lloyd, director of Urbane Eco, saying: ‘We have tried to apply, but we can’t participate due to the overly onerous requirements for installers’.

Increased bills

Secondly, the way the scheme is designed, you could install a heat pump without making any energy efficiency improvements. For some houses this might not be a problem. They can move to electric heating and benefit from cost and carbon savings. But for the majority of UK housing, moving to a heat pump without improving building efficiency will increase bills. The intervention will deliver carbon savings due to the grid supplying lower carbon electricity than any fossil fuel. But we need efficient low carbon buildings. Otherwise we’ll be needing solar panels and wind turbines as far as the eye can see.

ECOE is therefore working on developing a green retrofit service that seeks to provide low carbon, efficient solutions. To find out more, sign up for our Wise Up About Green Retrofit meeting. It will be on Zoom at 7pm on November 18th. Register here to find out more.