MCS certification scheme says it is 'fielding calls on a daily basis from installers seeking clarity and expressing their concerns over what they feel are flaws in the scheme'
The government is facing further calls for it to move quickly to extend the deadline for its £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme and address flaws in the high profile energy efficiency programme or risk plans to support 100,000 green jobs falling flat.
Just days after the National Insulation Association wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak warning that the March 31st deadline for households to use vouchers issued through the scheme did not give installers enough time to complete home upgrades or recruit more installers, the MCS certification body issued a similar call for the government to urgently rethink its approach.
The Green Homes Grant kicked off late last month and is offering two thirds off the price of approved green home improvements, such as insulation, solar panels, and heat pumps, with grants worth up to £5,000.
The scheme was broadly welcomed by green groups and businesses when it was announced earlier this summer and the government has predicted it will help support up to 100,000 jobs and cut carbon emissions and energy bills from 600,000 this winter.
However, the scheme has been beset by teething problems with the Daily Mail the latest to report on how some households cannot find local contractors to carry out work, while some tradespeople on the list of approved installers are now so inundated with orders they fear they will not be able to complete installations.
There have also been complaints about stringent criteria for qualifying for the scheme and complex forms that some householders have found difficult to fill out.
With fears growing that households keen to take advantage of the scheme are facing a postcode lotter, the MCS, which certifies clean technology installers, yesterday revealed that it is "fielding calls on a daily basis from installers seeking clarity and expressing their concerns over what they feel are flaws in the scheme".
Ian Rippin, CEO of MCS, said MCS certified firms were struggling to cope with an influx of orders, but were also understandably reluctant to invest in expanding when there is the risk of further disruption from the pandemic and the Green Homes Grant scheme is scheduled to end next March.
Under the rules of scheme, households that are awarded grants having secured a quote from an approved installer have to use the vouchers within three months and by March 31st next year at the latest.
"Having had something of a turbulent year due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, [MCS certified firms] have now experienced a return to work and are busy delivering on existing projects that had been paused, meaning that they don't necessarily have capacity to fulfil new work under the Green Homes Grant," explained Rippin. "It's also proving to be a challenging process for homeowners, as the eligibility assessment asks quite specific questions about property infrastructure that your average homeowner is unlikely to know. Consequently, a great deal more work is needed to help consumers understand the best options for making their home more energy efficient."
He added that "many installers feel that the grant should be extended beyond March 2021 to enable more consumers to take advantage; a view that we share".
"If one of the key aims of the scheme is to create 100,000 new jobs within energy and renewables, then the current window simply does not equip those in the sector with the confidence to make the necessary long-term investment," Rippin warned. "For businesses already engaged in the installation of renewable energy, the window to March 2021 - with no promise as to what might follow - doesn't provide reassurance or the time to train new installers.
"What we would like to see is a commitment to the extension of the Green Homes Grant, backed up with an understanding of how the sector will be supported in the coming years. With those assurances, we are confident that the scheme will play a strong part in helping to build confidence and grow our industry."
The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.
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