The government's Green Homes Grant scheme opens for applications today, but demand from homeowners expected to outstrip 600,000 vouchers available
The government's flagship energy efficiency scheme offering homeowners grants of up to £5,000 to help pay for home energy efficiency upgrades and low carbon technology installations has officially launched for applications today, but concerns have been raised that demand for vouchers could far outstrip supply.
First announced over the summer, the £2bn Green Home Grants scheme is aimed at decarbonising the UK's draughty households and making them cheaper to run, with a target to upgrade more than 600,000 homes though by supporting installation of measures such as insulation, double glazing and heat pumps. Homeowners can receive up to £5,000 towards the costs of upgrades, with low income households offered up to £10,000.
The government also estimates the grant scheme will support over 100,000 jobs in green construction for local plumbers, builders and tradespeople across the UK.
Welcoming the launch of the scheme today, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the move formed part of the government's plan to "build back better" and that boosting energy efficiency would boost jobs and help cut bills and CO2.
The Green Homes Grant scheme is now LIVE and is part of our plan to build back better.— Alok Sharma (@AlokSharma_RDG) September 30, 2020
Improving energy efficiency is good for jobs, the environment and people's back pockets.
Find out how today's package will help reduce emissions and cut energy bills: https://t.co/mG12hNDQeK
However, a fresh poll released today by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) indicates demand for grants through the scheme is likely to far outstrip demand, as homeowners seek financial support to upgrade their homes.
The YouGov poll of 1,400 adults in England found well over half of home owners (62 per cent) are interested in accessing Green Home Grants. If the poll reflects actual demand across England for grants, then it would mean around six million householders would be applying for grants, more than 10 times greater than the number of grants available, according to ECIU.
In total, the government is expected to make 600,000 vouchers for energy efficiency improvements to homes available with a budget of £2bn to support the scheme.
"With England's housing stock in such a bad way - over half are below the Government's EPC band C target - there's lots of work to be done, so it's not surprising the Green Homes Grant looks to be popular among the public," said ECIU analyst Jess Ralston. "This can only be good news for consumers and traders alike as bills will be reduced and jobs created all over the country, whilst also benefitting the environment by reducing carbon emissions: installing energy efficiency and low carbon heating really is a win-win scenario, and hopefully something that will continue."
Peter Smith, director of policy and research at the fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) urged the government to invest further in the scheme.
"The UK Government's recent investment to improve the energy efficiency of our leaky housing is hugely welcome," he said. "Our recent polling also demonstrates strong public support for fixing Britain's homes with three in four people supporting the UK Government urgently investing further resources. Two thirds also support the local jobs this could create. This additional investment will be vital to ensure the momentum of the new Green Home Grant is sustained and we continue to improve the UK's building stock otherwise it will remain notoriously inefficient."
Labour's Shadow Minister for Energy and the Green New Deal, Alan Whitehead, also welcomed the government's move to offer funding to boosting household retrofits, but slammed the Green Home Grants scheme as a "dog's breakfast" which did not do enough to deliver the long-term changes to home energy efficiency "that are desperately needed".
"Rather than boom and bust we need a properly focused, stable and long-term programme able to create jobs, cut bills and prepare the country for its net zero future," he said.
The Green Homes Grant scheme is part of a wider £3bn package of measures announced by the government aimed at helping to decarbonise UK buildings, including £1bn to boost the energy efficiency of public buildings such as schools and hospitals through a new Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund.
And £50m has been earmarked to improve the energy efficiency of social housing, alongside new measures launched for consultation today to ensure nearly three million privately rented homes are upgraded to modern energy efficiency standards by 2028.
With the private rented sector awash with draughty, fuel poor homes amid weak enforcement of existing Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) regulations, the moves announced today by the government to raise the minimum EPC target for landlords to achieve at least band 'C' by 2028 will be warmly welcomed by climate and fuel poverty campaigners alike.
"We promised to support jobs and protect the environment - and the Green Homes Grant delivers on this," said the Chancellor Rishi Sunak. "We're giving homeowners, landlords and local authorities the funding they need to hire local tradespeople and make our homes more energy efficient. By supporting the green van men and women, we'll save money, save jobs and save the planet."
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