Industry associations call on the Government ‘to fix’ Green Homes Grants scheme

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Industry associations are calling for four-point plan to fix Green Homes Grants scheme after one in three responders of a cross-industry survey say payment delays are threatening viability of their business.

The survey, by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), Solar Energy UK, Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd (REAL) and the Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Contractors Scheme (HIES), was carried among industry members involved in the installation of technologies eligible under the Green Homes Grants scheme.

The survey has reportedly reinforced claims that administrative delays are behind the low deployment of a £1.5billion worth of vouchers, with more than 100,000 vouchers applied for and millions of pounds worth of work already undertaken by installers.

To date, only 20,000 vouchers have reportedly been issued and even fewer payments for completed work have been made.

The four industry bodies surveyed 194 of their members, with their findings including:

  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of survey responders have completed work under the Green Homes Grant. The remaining installers identified concerns with the operation of the scheme as their main reason for not participating.
  • Of this group who are yet to be convinced to take part, the majority (72%) state that they are waiting to see if improvements can be made to the turnaround of payments, before they will reconsider their involvement.
  • Of those installers already working under the scheme, over three quarters (76%) were concerned about the time it takes to receive voucher payments’
  • Over a third (35%) of the respondents stated that delays to scheme payments, is now threatening the viability of their businesses
  • Over half (51%) of installers stated that they have hired new people, given an expectation that the scheme would generate a significant volume of new enquiries.
  • Over a third (34%) said they were unlikely to retain these new staff, unless significant improvements are made to the operation of the scheme, including the flow of payments.
  • A further fifth (17%) of installers stated that they have already let their recent new hires go as given issues with working with the voucher scheme.

MCS chief executive Ian Rippin commented on the findings: “The Green Homes Grant has good intentions, but it has been over-engineered to the point where it is now significantly affecting how our installers operate.

“Delays to payments are especially damaging and we are calling for consumer incentives like this to be simplified to enable renewable energy businesses to do what they do best, without worrying about their financial health.”

Following the survey results, the four industry bodies are calling on the Government to implement a four-point plan to address the issues in the scheme:

  1. Immediate acceleration of payments and processing of vouchers to address installers’ cashflow concerns and increase pace of installations for consumers.
  2. A greater administrative role established for the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, which has ‘the expertise and existing relationships with installers, auditors and established consumer bodies in the zero-carbon home retrofitting market.’
  3. Greater transparency of the auditing process – particularly the cost criteria of products and installation works should be made visible.
  4. A commitment in the upcoming Budget to use all the underspent 2020/21 budget in future years through a longer-term programme of zero-carbon retrofitting until the end of this parliament, applying lessons learned from the successful Local Authority Delivery scheme.

HIES chief executive Faisal Hussain added: “The results of the survey are a real concern because of the delay in customers receiving vouchers and installers getting paid for completed work.

“Furthermore, consumers who have paid a deposit could be in danger of losing it if their chosen installer ceases to trade.

“We want to work with the government and the scheme administrator to help ensure that consumers and installers are not severely impacted and would welcome a meeting to discuss the findings and potential solutions in more detail.”

Earlier this month, the Environmental Audit Committee stated that it would take over 10 years to meet the Government’s target to issue vouchers to 600,000 households at the current rate.