Actuate UK, the new alliance of eight engineering services organisations, has urged Government to reconsider its intention to remove funding from the £2bn Green Homes Grants (GHG) scheme. “Such drastic reduction of funding sends out all the wrong signals, especially as the Government aims to put the green economy at the heart of plans for rebuilding the economy,” says Julia Evans from Actuate UK member BSRIA.
Actuate UK members have expressed their disappointment that only £320m of the original £2bn would now be made available through the GHG voucher scheme.
“Initiatives to encourage the take up of low carbon solutions need to be long term and consistent,” adds Hywel Davies, from Actuate UK member CIBSE. “A short-term stimulus does not create the market shift required to achieve net zero targets, including the development of a suitably skilled workforce in key sectors. To invest in the necessary recruitment, training and technologies, businesses must know that Government means business, and is in this for the long haul.”
Julia Evans added “We suggest that [the] Budget is a huge opportunity for Government to underline its commitment to building a green economy and recovery, especially ahead of the UK’s hosting COP26, and that this should include ongoing commitment to green residential retrofit”.
Actuate UK proposes that Government:
- Review the operation of the GHG, in consultation with the sector groups that would implement the energy efficient and low carbon measures it is supporting and
- Release all the original GHG funding, ensuring that the full £2 billion is available until March 2022 and act swiftly to resolve the administration problems with the scheme based on current feedback.
- Consider a requirement for GHG voucher to be used to create a ‘green building passport’ to give homeowners a plan from the medium to long term.
- Develop a robust pathway so that the GHG voucher scheme can support the transition into future long-term support.
- Reduce VAT to zero on all energy efficiency-related products.
Government has characterised the GHG initiative, set up in 2020 to improve the energy efficiency of 600,000 homes in England by issuing vouchers to carry out home improvements, as a “short-term stimulus”. Grants could be used up to the end of the 2020-21 financial year, although work could carry on until March 2022. A recent report from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) noted that vouchers were being issued at a ‘snail’s pace’ – only 20,000 issued at the last count, just 5% of the available vouchers. However, there is clearly consumer demand and once administrative issues are resolved and the timescale extended, supply chains will have the full confidence to develop and support the scheme.