New report offers ‘a sobering assessment of the failures’ in the Green Homes Grant scheme

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A new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) examines the performance, implementation, procurement and management of the Green Homes Grant scheme.

The government has identified decarbonising home heating as a key part of its plan to deliver net zero by 2050.In establishing the Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme, the Department worked at an ambitious pace to deliver a scheme which would contribute to this long-term aim while delivering a short-term economic boost.

However, according to NAO, the tension between these two key aims and the short delivery time was never properly reconciled leading to an overly complex scheme that could not be delivered to a satisfactory level of performance in the time available.

Commenting on the NAO’s report on the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne MP, commented: “Although established with good intentions, the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme was a policy made on the hoof without proper consultation.

“A lack of understanding about installer capacity and limitations in the sector from the Government, along with overambitious deadlines set by the Treasury, meant that the scheme was designed to fail to meet its ambitious targets from the outset.

“The NAO’s report is a sobering assessment of the failures in the scheme, which might otherwise have kickstarted the drive to tackle the 20% of emissions emanating from the country’s housing stock.

“I hope the Government will swiftly learn from the errors made in the design and execution of the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme. As my committee has consistently advocated, I trust Ministers will now introduce a simpler scheme of much longer duration, in which both contractors and consumers can have confidence, so we can accelerate our efforts to adapt our homes to achieve Net Zero Britain.”

Should all current applications be processed, the scheme will have upgraded an expected 47,500 homes, at a cost to the taxpayer of about £314 million.

Of this, £50.5 million is for programme management and administrative expenses, amounting to more than £1,000 per home upgraded.

Despite the Department’s considerable efforts, the rushed delivery and implementation of the scheme has significantly reduced the benefits that might have been achieved, caused frustration for homeowners and installers, and had limited impact on job creation for the longer term, the report states.

According to NAO, the Department and external assurance highlighted several risks of proceeding quickly, but the Department accepted these risks.

The fast pace constrained its procurement options, and its engagement with the installer market and, coupled with the short duration of the scheme, reportedly made it hard for energy efficiency installers to mobilise to meet demand.

While the authors of the report recognise the desire to act quickly in the interests of delivering an economic stimulus, the government should be prepared to limit or delay the launch of a programme if the evidence suggests it is not ready.

According to the report, previous government attempts to deliver energy efficiency schemes, such as for the Green Deal, have amply illustrated the difficulties of achieving successful delivery in this area.

It is important that the Department and HM Treasury heed the lessons from this, and previous schemes, for any future domestic decarbonisation programme, the authors conclude.

The ‘Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme’-report is available on the NAO website.