How the Green Homes Grant scheme failed

Victoria Brocklesby, COO at Origin, discusses the Green Homes Grant scheme and how it didn’t match up to expectations.

The UK government formally recognised that the nation must do more to combat climate change when it set itself the ambitious targets of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

However, drastic action must be taken to meet these targets. One area identified where significant savings could be made was by upgrading our homes to be more energy efficient, but making these upgrades can be a costly affair.

To incentivise more homeowners and landlords to do so, the government announced a revolutionary new initiative in September 2020 called the Green Homes Grant scheme, where the government would supplement the cost of essential energy-saving upgrades through a voucher scheme that would cover a proportion or, in some cases, all of the cost.

Not only would the initiative make our homes more energy efficient, which would reduce our carbon footprint, but homeowners could save on their energy bills too. If that wasn’t enough, it was also hoped that the scheme would generate more jobs within an industry that has struggled during the pandemic. However, despite the theory being on point, the execution was severely lacking, and the scheme was consequently scrapped a year ahead of schedule.

One of the biggest issues with the scheme was the sheer lack of information available, not just for homeowners, but also for industry professionals expected to deliver the work.

Not only this, but the scheme itself was overly convoluted and meant homeowners often couldn’t apply for the work they wanted. For example, the initiative outlined two distinct categories, classed as primary and secondary measures. It is the secondary measures which related to the fenestration industry.

However, for a homeowner to qualify for a secondary measure, such as upgrading to energy efficient doors and windows, they would first have to apply for at least one primary measure, which included solid wall insulation or putting in a biomass boiler.

So, any initial excitement those of us working in the fenestration industry had about the government’s new scheme was quickly snubbed out once it became clear that homeowners would need to apply for at least one primary measure before they could even think about upgrading their doors or windows.

Installation was another glaring problem: only tradespeople registered with either the TrustMark or Microgeneration Certification Scheme accreditations were eligible to claim for the vouchers to supplement the cost from the government. So, once a homeowner had decided to carry out work to upgrade their home, they needed to search for an accredited tradesperson.

However, achieving these accreditations, on top of those that they might have already, is a time-consuming process, and with demand for work under the initiative being limited, many tradespeople didn’t bother registering. This made it difficult for homeowners to find accredited tradespeople to carry out the work and turned many off the idea completely.

We saw proof of this at Origin. When the scheme was initially announced, we witnessed a significant spike in web traffic with people searching to improve their homes. But once more information on the scheme was available, and it was clear it would be difficult for homeowners to upgrade their doors and windows, this dropped off quickly, and minimal enquiries were made in connection with the scheme.

On paper, the Green Homes Grant scheme was set to revolutionise our homes and build an energy-efficient future for the UK. Had the initiative been easy to execute, I believe this could have been delivered. However, the over complicated nature of the scheme meant this was simply not possible.

I’m really not surprised it was cut short.