In response to concerns raised by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on the operation of the Green Homes Grant, BEIS Minister Lord Callanan has 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 over 10 years to meet the Government’s target to issue vouchers to 600,000 households.
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 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 2020, 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 Green Homes Grant scheme, to the end of March 2022, will give industry more confidence to hire installers with the necessary certifications.
The correspondence from the Minister comes as the EAC also publishes a Government response to a Committee letter on heat pumps. The EAC raised concern that a lack of skilled installation engineers risks undermining the Government’s commitment to install 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 skills competition is launching in September, only seven months ahead of the deadline for the Green Homes Grant, it is unlikely to have a significant impact on the availability of skilled engineers to undertake Green Homes Grant installations. This next crunch could be avoided if the Chancellor announces a material, multi-year extension to the Green Homes Grant scheme in the March Budget.
Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said, “The principle of the Green Homes Grant should be commended. It is a timely initiative not only to boost 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 snail’s pace, with only 20,000 of the 600,000 target issued four months in – at this rate it will take over 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 are having 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.”
Publication of the correspondence follows the EAC’s evidence session held on 3 February as part of its Green Jobs inquiry. Members heard how the Green Homes Grant and the Government’s ambitions for energy efficiency upgrades would drive job creation in the short term. Witnesses suggested that a long-term plan was also necessary, giving certainty to the sector in its adaptation to low-carbon energy installations. The Institute for Public Policy Research suggested 250,000 jobs could be created in energy efficiency by 2030, but warned that a net zero and just transition delivery plan would be needed.