In September, the Government launched the Green Homes Grant. We held an open meeting focusing on this on Tuesday 6th October. You can watch the recording of the meeting on youtube.
This blog is by Will Houghton of Bristol Energy Co-operative.
What is the Green Homes Grant? The Green Homes Grant offers up to £10,000 to help save energy and reduce carbon emissions from heating our homes, such as insulation and renewable heating. In our meeting, we focused on the main two parts of the scheme, which issue vouchers to homeowners.
- £1bn budget
- Available to owner-occupiers & landlords
- Covers 2/3 of cost up to £5,000 Low-income scheme:
- £500m budget
- Available to owner-occupiers where a household member is in receipt of certain benefits
- Covers 100% of cost up to £10,000
We didn’t cover the following related schemes in any detail:
- GHG Local Authority Delivery (LAD) Scheme for low-income households with energy inefficient properties, applications are made by the local authority
- Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) for public buildings
How to access the grant:
The Simple Energy Advice website is the place to start, and provides a link to the government website where you can apply. We recommend contacting Futureproof for advice at an early stage, as shown below (more info on this further down the page, too):
The grant is now live (launched 30th Sept) and is scheduled to run until 31st March 2021. The first vouchers are expected to be issued from November, so it seems there is a wait of at least a month after applying. Please note that work must be completed before the voucher expires, which is three months after issue or 31 st March, whichever is earlier.
What does the grant cover? The grant distinguishes between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ measures as shown below. Secondary measures are only eligible up to the value of the primary measures.
- Insulation – solid wall, cavity wall, floor, loft, roof
- Heat pumps
- Solar thermal
- Biomass Secondary measures:
- Double/secondary glazing
- Energy-efficient external doors
- Heating controls
- Hot water cylinder thermostats/insulation For more detail on what’s covered, please check the government website.
But…it’s not quite as simple as that! On the face of it, this grant is a great way to reduce bills, save carbon and support low-income households. It gets people thinking about retrofit and could really strengthen sectors such as sustainable construction and renewable heating.
However, the scheme is already showing some significant problems:
- It’s very difficult to find an installer. The scheme requires TrustMark certification, which very few companies have already. Some are signing up now, but most prefer to avoid the large administrative burden, especially given their other doubts about the GHG scheme. However there may be a few more firms available than you think, as we have heard that not all registered firms are showing up on the SEA & TrustMark search tools.
- There’s a risk of poor workmanship. Whilst TrustMark provides some reassurance, it is no substitute for a good track record and reputation. Smaller local firms, which often provide the highest-quality work, are unlikely to be signed up. Unfortunately, Futureproof Associate Builders can’t access the scheme (unless TrustMark accredited).
- There’s a risk of over-inflated costs. Installers are taking on extra admin and financial risk, with concerns that the government will be slow to pay out for redeemed vouchers. And since the grant allows customers to increase their budget, some firms may up their prices to match demand. TrustMark will be checking for wildly excessive prices, but slight increases are likely to go unnoticed (and may well be justified!).
- There is very little time to complete the work. With just three months (at most) to complete the work, it’s a huge rush for both homeowners and installers. What’s more, winter is not a great time to be installing some measures such as solid wall insulation, which could increase the cost as well as the risk of something going wrong.
- There is no requirement or support for a whole-house retrofit approach. The Simple Energy Advice website only gives basic, generic advice, and there is no requirement for an assessment of the property’s needs before applying. Whilst the grant does cover some studies (such as damp surveys), this must be alongside installation of the main measures, so in practice there is unlikely to be any grant budget remaining for this.
What we recommend:
- Don’t rush. There will be other grant schemes, so make sure you don’t compromise on assessing the needs of the property or finding a good-quality installer. However do take this opportunity to plan your retrofit, if you haven’t already.
- We recommend contacting Futureproof at an early stage, as they can provide personalised advice on your retrofit plans, advice on the grant scheme and referrals to suitable installers. We also recommend checking out the list of useful resources on the CHEESE website here.
- We think the grant scheme could be useful for simple, low-cost projects, where the grant will cover the majority of the value of the works. In most cases it will be best to use the grant to cover a single ‘primary measure.’
- The scheme is not great for solid wall insulation, as it’s really the wrong time of year to be doing this work, there are very few suitable TrustMark installers in the Bristol area. Similarly there is a lack of local installers for floor and roof insulation.
- It’s better suited to loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, solar thermal or heat pumps. There are still not many installers for these measures, but it looks a little better. Please take care to ensure your chosen installer has a good track record before proceeding.
- If you apply, please do let us know how you get on.
What is Futureproof?
Futureproof is a government-funded initiative that aims to accelerate local demand and supply chains for low carbon retrofit in the West of England. It’s led by the Centre for Sustainable Energy, in partnership with The Green Register. They offer all sorts of useful services including:
- General advice on Green Homes Grant applications
- Peronalised advice on your retrofit plans
- Referrals to trusted installers
- Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)
- Energy Saving Expert surveys
- Retrofit Coordinator reports (to be launched very soon)
Help us to support better grant schemes in future
Bristol Energy Network is in discussion with BEIS and has been asked for feedback on the Green Homes Grant, to help inform future government support schemes. Whether you are applying or not, please do get in touch to let us know your thoughts on the scheme. In the open meeting, we held a mini-workshop – thanks to all who attended for the brilliant feedback.
The main feedback on the current grant scheme was:
- It’s a good scheme in principle, but much too rushed and needs to be scaled up
- It’s too complicated, and it’s difficult to work out how to apply and which firms to trust
- There are very few local installers available; some are quoting but others have a huge waiting list
- Despite the issues, many are planning to apply for the scheme
- It would be helpful to have more outreach from the council; it’s unclear whether disadvantaged communities are being encouraged to apply.
On the future of retrofit, attendees said they would like to see:
- A more nuanced, long-term approach that encourages whole-house retrofit
- A local-based approach to training the supply chain, which will need to hugely increase in capacity, including support to help smaller firms get registered
- More support for vulnerable and offline households, who will need more time and more information to help develop their retrofit plans
- Better local building controls, incorporating lessons from other countries such as Germany
- Post-installation performance testing
- Use of CHEESE thermal imaging for quality assurance
- Councils taking legal action against landlords and housing associations to force energy efficiency improvements