National Insulation Association writes to Chancellor requesting clarity over long term future of the scheme, after reports that many households cannot access grant scheme
The National Insulation Association (NIA) has today stepped up calls for the government to extend its £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme and clarify its long term plans for improving domestic energy efficiency, amidst fears the newly launched scheme is already facing teething problems.
In an open letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the NIA warned that while its members had been "inundated" with inquiries from customers wanting to apply for the grants there were growing concerned across the sector that the government's goal of upgrading 600,000 homes this winter is likely to be missed.
The Green Homes Grant scheme launched on 30th September and offers households up to two thirds off the cost of approved green upgrades up to a total of £5,000. The government has said the scheme should deliver emissions and energy saving upgrades for around 600,000 homes and support over 100,000 jobs.
However, the scheme is currently scheduled to close on March 31st next year and concerns are growing across the sector that the first vouchers may not be issued under the scheme until mid-November, leaving a compressed timetable to complete upgrade work.
"Almost every business within our membership has been inundated with customer enquiries demonstrating that it has captured the consumer imagination," the letter states. "However, we feel duty bound to communicate a widely held concern that the timeline for the scheme is too short. Despite an estimated target of 600,000 homes across England, and the scheme launch on 30th September, the latest news is that vouchers will not be available until mid-November.
"This leaves just four and a half months for the industry to deliver. In addition to the commercial and logistical challenge of scaling up delivery in the available timeframe, winter weather, additional local lockdowns and reduced availability of trained personnel (due to sickness or need to self-isolate) all present further challenges for the industry. Many of these issues can be overcome; however, the short three-month validity of individual vouchers and "drop dead" date of 31st March 2021 for all vouchers drastically reduces the remedy options available to companies in the sector."
The letter also warns that without an extended deadline the scheme is unlikely to deliver the anticipated level of new jobs.
"New employment opportunities are dependent on new work acquired through the incentive; if the potential for additional work decreases due to lack of customer interest and diminishing timescales, businesses will be less likely to take people on," it added.
Derek Horrocks, chair of the NIA, said that while the trade body had championed the Green Homes Grant "we must now address the concerns being echoed across the sector".
"Four and a half months from the point at which the first vouchers will be issued is not enough time to deliver on the government's aspirations for energy efficiency and job creation," he said. "We are heading into winter - a time of year which already creates weather challenges for many green home improvements. On top of this, the nation and the workforce are still grappling with the impacts of a pandemic. It is vital that the scheme is extended to ensure that opportunities are not missed."
The government was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.
The move comes just days after the Guardian reported on how some householders trying to apply to the scheme are at risk of missing out on grants because of difficulties finding accredited installers in their area.
The paper reported that some homeowners in Cornwall had been pointed towards installers as far away as Scotland, Manchester, and south Wales, who had declined to provide quotes for the work - the first step towards securing a grant.=
A government spokesman told the paper that "almost 1000 companies have signed up to the Green Homes Grant so far with more registering every day, including many businesses that operate nationally with substantial capacity to carry out work across the country".
"We are working closely with industry to ensure there are enough installers to meet demand," he added.
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