The government has announced that the Green Homes Grant scheme, launched less than a year ago, is to be imminently axed.
After reaching just 10% of the 600,000 homes the chancellor pledged for improvement, the scheme will be ended on Wednesday this week, with the remaining funding allocated to a separate insulation fund run by councils.
The £300m previously allocated for the scheme will now go into a programme administered by local authorities, targeted at lower-income households.
Around 19 million homes in the UK need to be insulated or the emissions from gas boilers will severely hamper the UK’s chances of achieving its climate change targets – most notably becoming a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.
Yet, the Green Homes Grant scheme – which launched in September last year and was touted as a core part of the government’s decarbonisation strategy – has struggled from the start.
The government said many households were reluctant to apply for the grants – which were worth up to £10,000 – because they feared COVID fears.
However, in some parts of the country installers were actually overwhelmed with demand, and families could not even get firms to answer the phone.
Checks on the way the money was spent were also stringent, meaning that some installers went out of business because payments were so severely delayed.
First announced last summer, the Green Homes Grant scheme was extended in November for another year till the end of March 2022.
The demise of the scheme follows the previous failure of the government’s Green Deal, which failed because householders were able to get cheaper finance through their bank.
Greenpeace UK described the rollout of the Green Homes Grant as “shambolic”.
‘Certainty to plan ahead’
Revealing the decision, Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng chose to focus on the transfer of cash to the local authority fund, rather than the scrapping of the Green Homes Grant.
Kwarteng said: “Upgrading the country’s homes with energy efficiency measures means we can cut emissions and save people money on their energy bills.
“Today’s funding boost will mean even more households across England are able to access these vital grants through their local authority.
“This latest announcement takes our total energy efficiency spending to over £1.3bn in the next financial year, giving installers the certainty they need to plan ahead, create new jobs, and train the next generation of builders, plumbers, and tradespeople.”
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), said: “Slashing more than £1bn in funding for energy efficiency is an absolute travesty, for households wanting to take action and for businesses trying to plan ahead, and has created yet another roadblock for decarbonising the country’s 29 million homes.
“We have been left speechless by this news, which comes just days after the Environmental Audit Committee sent a clear message to government that if we are to meet our legally binding target to be net-zero carbon by 2050, urgent action is needed to improve energy efficiency of homes this decade.
“From start to finish, the scheme has been beset by problems of government’s own making. But these should have been fixed, not used to justify its scrapping.
“In the year of the UK hosting COP26, this is not the sort of example we wanted to be setting for the world – a lesson in precisely how not to do policy-making in this vital sector.
“With a stream of crucial policies coming down the pipeline for construction and property in the next few months and years, lessons must be learnt as soon as possible and these mistakes not repeated.”
Hirigoyen continued: “Government is now emphasising the role of local authorities in delivering retrofit, and there is absolutely no doubt that they have a key role to play.
“But they need the certainty of a national retrofit strategy within which to operate locally, and they need to be given financial support and the freedom to innovate.
“Retrofit has a clear role to play in both levelling-up and driving a green-recovery at the local level, but this requires a genuine partnership approach.”
Ed Matthew, from climate change think tank E3G, said: “The end of the government’s flagship green homes scheme is a tragedy that was avoidable.
“There was plenty of demand for the grants but the scheme was plagued by incompetent administration. The reality is that we can’t get to net-zero without decarbonising our homes.”
He called for a new grant scheme to replace it – but said it was key to get the grants out quickly.
Matthew Pennycook, the shadow minister for Climate Change, said: “The funding announced today doesn’t even come close to plugging the investment gap created by the government’s decision to slash more than £1bn from its Green Homes Grant scheme and then scrap it altogether.
“Ministers might talk a good game on energy efficiency, but their staggering ineptitude when it comes to decarbonising the country’s housing stock speaks for itself.”
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