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UK MP says it could take 10 years to issue all Green Homes Grant vouchers

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It could take 10 years or more to meet the UK Government’s target to issue Green Homes Grant vouchers to 600,000 households.

In response to concerns raised by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on the operation of the Green Homes Grant, Lord Callanan, Minister of the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) admitted that only 20,000 vouchers towards the cost of installing energy-efficient improvements have been issued to homeowners or residential landlords. At the current rate, it would take more than 10 years to meet the government’s target of 600,000 vouchers.

The EAC conducted an online survey on the Green Homes Grant in November, collating feedback from those who had accessed the scheme. The shortage of accredited engineers registered with TrustMark, the UK Government-endorsed quality scheme for Green Homes Grant installers, was highlighted as a reason consumers were unable to make the upgrades the scheme should have enabled.

During an evidence session in November, the EAC heard that 1,200 companies had registered with TrustMark. The Minister has now confirmed that this number has only slightly increased two months later to 1,300 companies.

Ministers hope the extension of the scheme to the end of March 2022 will give industry more confidence to hire installers with the necessary certifications.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne MP, said: “The principle of the Green Homes Grant should be commended. It is a timely initiative not only to boost the energy efficiency of homes – which is urgently needed to stem carbon emissions – but to address our growing unemployment crisis triggered by the pandemic. But unless overhauled and further extended, this scheme will fail to deliver its ambition.

“Issuing vouchers is continuing at a snail’s pace, with only 20,000 of the 600,000 target issues four months in – at this rate it will take 10 years to fulfil the government’s expectation. Many of the builders and installers that can do the work are in limbo as a result of the time taken to approve applications, and perversely we have heard evidence some have had to lay off skilled workers as orders have been stalled pending confirmation of vouchers.

“This scheme has good potential, but it needs a radical overhaul now the scheme has been extended. It must streamline the application process by removing unnecessary bureaucracy and must make sure the supply of skills meets the demand that 600,000 vouchers, and a further boost by the Chancellor in the March Budget, would drive. By doing so, it could make large strides towards meeting other government commitments, such as installing 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.”

Lord Callanan’s comments come as the EAC also publishes a government response to a Committee letter on heat pumps. The organisation raised concerns that a lack of skilled installation engineers risks undermining the government’s commitment to installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028. Within the Green Homes Grant, homeowners and residential landlords are eligible to receive vouchers towards heat pump installation.

The skills initiatives outlined by Lord Callanan may promise to ensure the UK is equipped to install low-carbon energy efficiency upgrades in the longer-term. However, as the £6.9 million (€7.8 million) skills competition is launching in September, just seven months ahead of the Green Homes Grant deadline, it is “unlikely” to have a significant impact on the availability of skilled engineers to undertake installations, according to the EAC. This next ‘crunch’ could be avoided if the Chancellor announces a multi-year extension to the scheme in the March budget.