Whatever happened to building back greener?
What a mess. Over the weekend the Government announced it is pulling the £1.5bn Green Homes Grant in favour of delivering funding for energy efficient home improvements via local authorities. The failed scheme was only set up in September 2020 and is the second initiative designed to help homeowners improve the efficiency of their property to be scrapped, following the demise of the Green Deal in 2015.
To-date, the Government’s track record of incentivising homeowners to carry out energy efficient improvements isn’t exactly exemplary. And it’s not only in England that we have failed to deliver. In Northern Ireland the failure of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, set up to encourage businesses to switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources, ultimately led to the collapse of the devolution government.
There is clearly pent up demand from homeowners, as more than 123,000 people put in an application for the Green Homes Grant, so what was the problem? Contractors who could have carried out the work complained about the complexity of registering to be included in the scheme, and the issues encountered by homeowners trying to access funding speak for themselves: only 28,000 vouchers were issued and 5,800 projects completed by the end of February.
Experts agree that buildings are one of the biggest producers of carbon emissions. If we don’t make our homes more energy efficient, the UK has no chance of meeting its net zero carbon target. But for some reason, this is an area which we seem utterly incapable of tackling with any measure of success.
The Government has pledged to honour any Green Homes vouchers that have already been allocated and to fund applications that are already in the pipeline. But it must take on board the criticism that is being levelled at it over this failed scheme and take decisive action to urgently drive energy efficiency improvements via local schemes. Local authorities must take up the gauntlet with enthusiasm and at pace - before it’s too late.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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