The government’s £2 billion Green Homes Grant will not upgrade as many homes this year as planned, an influential cross-party group of MPs has warned.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has written to the energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng MP after a survey of 510 people revealed widespread issues in accessing the scheme.
86% of respondents reported having a poor experience in applying for the grant, with just over half of applicants finding the grant’s eligibility calculator helpful.
Even when applicants found they were eligible, many said they experienced delays in receiving responses to their applications, leading to some quotes for works expiring.
The EAC has asked the government to outline what improvements will be made to the scheme now that it has been extended to 2022.
Philip Dunne MP, chair of the EAC, said: “The government’s initiative for the Green Homes Grant should be commended. However, if we are to succeed in carrying out the amount of energy efficiency upgrades in homes that are needed, it is already clear that the scheme is not going to achieve its initial targets.
“Homes emit an astonishing 20% of the UK’s CO2, and we cannot come close to reaching net-zero without seriously addressing energy efficiency concerns in our existing building stock.”
The Green Homes Grant was launched on 30 September to help homeowners and residential landlords fund the costs of green home improvements such as low-carbon heating installation and loft insulation.
£1.5 billion of the scheme was to be handed out through vouchers, while the remaining £500 million was assigned to local authorities so they could provide improvements for low-income households.
The scheme was initially set to close in March 2021. However, the government has since extended the scheme for a further year after industry figures warned that the deadline would not give them enough time to complete improvements.
The EAC found that at the time of its survey, conducted between 2 and 16 November, only 5.6% of respondents had received a voucher for energy efficiency measures to be installed.
Respondents often found they were unable to install the measures they needed due to confusion over primary and secondary measures, with the former needing to be already installed in homes for them to be eligible for the latter.
This caused problems with sequencing, the committee heard, as some secondary measures such as heating controls should ideally be installed before primary measures like heat pumps.
Furthermore, 75% of respondents found it hard to find a TrustMark registered contractor to carry out works, with contractors either unaware of the scheme or unprepared to sign up to it due to a lack of consultation from government.
This has led to contractors who are TrustMark accredited being overwhelemed with requests, highlighting capacity issues that are likely to scupper the scheme’s original target.
The government said when launching the Green Homes Grant that it would make over 600,000 homes more energy-efficient.
Dunne added: “Now the scheme has been extended, which is very welcome, I hope the government learns from this initial feedback gleaned by my committee.
“It must make swift improvements to reviewing applications promptly; ensuring there are enough TrustMark accredited contractors; and to clear up the confusion between primary and secondary measures.”
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been approached for comment.