The Government expects the Green Homes Grant Scheme will help up to 600,000 households save up to £600 on their energy bills, but so far only 20,000 vouchers have been issued. The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has warned at its current rate it will take a staggering ten years to meet the target.
And in more shocking news, any of the initial £2bn promised that is not spent this year will be scrapped. Energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan stated in a parliamentary answer that this original funding was announced as a “short term stimulus for use in the 2020/21 financial year only”.
Labour shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband stated the reduction in funding as making “a mockery” of the government’s commitments on climate change and a green recovery.
“It is outrageous that the government is withdrawing funding promised to help insulate people’s homes. They are denying homeowners the energy improvements they need, denying installers the work they need and denying the country the green transition we need,” he continued.
The Green Homes Grant Scheme vouchers help fund up to two-thirds of the cost of the home energy improvements up to £5,000 (or up to £10,000 for low-income households). Initially set to finish in March 2021, the deadline was extended until the end of March 2022 to help meet demand.
According to an online survey run by the EAC in November, a shortage of accredited engineers has been a key challenge for those wishing to access the £2bn scheme. Installers must be registered with the government-endorsed quality scheme TrustMark to be able to participate in the scheme.
The concern over a lack of installers follows another report by the EAC warning that the government’s 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028 target may fail in part because of a lack of installation engineers.
A new discounted training scheme, the Renewable Heat Installer Training & Support Scheme (RHITSS), in partnership with MCS (the Microgeneration Certification Scheme) has recently been launched by GTEC to help installers gain the training and certifications required under the Green Homes Grant Scheme.
BEIS (The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) is also set to launch a skills initiative to ensure the UK has skilled workers in the low-carbon energy efficiency space going forwards. However, the £6.9 million skills competition is not set to launch until September, just seven months before the Green Homes Grant Scheme ends, and is therefore expected to have a limited impact on the availability of skilled installers to meet the demand of the scheme.
The EAC has called for an extension to the scheme. Chairman Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP said,
“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.”
In another damning review by the Guardian, it also found evidence from renewable energy installers that since preparing and spending money to expand their companies to meet the demands of the scheme, they are now faced with having to lay off staff because of the delays and chaos. Plus, many installers have been left out of pocket and in debt due to massive delays in payments. Some renewable energy companies are refusing to do more work until they are paid the tens of thousands of pounds owed for work dating back to last autumn.
EAC Chairman Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP has also called for a radical overhaul of the scheme,
“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.”