Green Homes Grant voucher target would take over 10 years to meet, warns committee

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In response to concerns raised by the Environmental Audit Committee, 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 as part of the Green Homes Grant scheme.

At the current rate, the committee states, it would take over 10 years to meet the Government’s target to issue vouchers to 600,000 households.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne MP, commented: “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.”

The committee 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 committee 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.

However the Committee has expressed their concern over the future of the Grant, suggesting that government action is required.

A Committee spokesperson added: “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.”

The correspondence from the Minister comes as the committee also publishes a Government response to a Committee letter on heat pumps.

In December 2020, the committee raised their concern that a lack of skilled installation engineers risks is 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 correspondence between Lord Callanan and the Committee is available on the Environmental Audit Committee website.