Green Homes Grant Scheme – why quality really does matter

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Quality assurance will be key to consumer confidence.
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The Green Homes Grant Scheme was announced in July. It promises homeowners and landlords in England vouchers covering a proportion of the cost of upgrading their homes to make them more energy-efficient. The aim is not only to improve the country’s ageing housing stock and help people keep their energy bills down but also to protect jobs in the trades sector as we start to feel the impact of the pandemic on the economy.

The new scheme will see the government fund up to two-thirds of the cost of home improvements of an estimated 600,000 homes.  The new vouchers are worth up to £5,000 for homeowners but households on low incomes will be eligible for vouchers covering the whole cost of improvements, up to a maximum of £10,000.

Green Homes Grants will give homeowners, including owner-occupiers and social/private landlords, vouchers to install one or more of the following:

  • solid wall, under-floor, cavity wall or roof insulation
  • air source or ground source heat pump
  • solar thermal

Vouchers can also be used for further energy-saving measures including one or more of:

  • double or triple glazing/secondary glazing, when replacing single glazing
  • upgrading to energy-efficient doors
  • hot water tank/appliance tank thermostats/heating controls

But it’s not so long ago that a similar Green Deal scheme, launched in 2013 to provide loans to improve domestic energy efficiency, turned out to be a dismal failure. According to press reports based on findings by the official auditors the initiative, abandoned in 2015, cost taxpayers nearly £400m and did not deliver energy or carbon savings. So what is being done differently this time around?

The difference with the Green Homes Grant seems to be that attention is now being paid to quality assurance – and rightly so. Consumer confidence will be key to its success. So builders, plumbers, and other tradespeople will need a government-backed seal of approval to provide their services. They must register for TrustMark or Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accreditation to take part in the £2 billion programme.

Once the scheme kicks off, anyone who wants to take advantage of the Green Homes Grant will be able to get advice from the Simple Energy Advice (SEA) service. SEA will suggest home improvements that homeowners could make that will fit the grant criteria. They will then be offered a list of approved TrustMark and MCS registered tradespeople in their local area to carry out the work. Once the works are agreed, vouchers will start to be issued from the end of September.

Of course the big question everyone will be asking is, how much money could I save? The Government says this. For the installation of cavity wall and floor insulation in a semi or end-terrace house at a cost of around £4,000, the homeowner would pay just £1,320 – with the government paying £2,680. This could save the owner more than £200 on their annual energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint by cutting 700 kg of CO2 a year from their home alone.

So if the scheme works as it is intended to, there could be substantial savings to be made – up to £600 a year on average. Good news all round we think.
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