After Green Homes Grant failure, Government 'dodges' recommendations on energy-efficient homes

The Government has admitted that it did not consult stakeholders before launching the now-defunct Green Homes Grant scheme, in a document that MPs have said is evidence that it is shirking responsibility on domestic energy efficiency.

More than 80% of homes standing today will still be standing in 2050, the point by which the UK has committed to reaching net-zero

More than 80% of homes standing today will still be standing in 2050, the point by which the UK has committed to reaching net-zero

The document in question is the Government’s response to recent recommendations put forward by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), as part of its inquiry into the energy efficiency of existing homes.

Published today (13 May), the response letter states that many of the concerns raised by the EAC, trade bodies and green groups will be addressed in the forthcoming Heat and Buildings Strategy. Separate Heat and Building Strategies had initially been due out in late 2020, but delays resulted from both the merger and ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

While the letter expresses agreement with several of the concerns raised by the EPC, including worries of an unjust transition, in which businesses, homes and other energy users do not fairly share the costs and benefits of the net-zero transition, there is little in the way of adopting the EAC’s specific recommendations. Instead, much space is allocated to touting the benefits of existing schemes such as ECO, the Warm Home Discount and the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, and teasing the release of the Heat and Buildings Strategy.

“The Heat and Buildings Strategy will set out our policies and plans for the 2020s, demonstrating how they work together to ensure we are on track for net-zero by the end of the decade,” the letter summarises.

Notably, the letter does not contain an updated cost estimate on retrofitting the UK’s entire housing stock, as requested by the EAC over concerns that current estimates may be too low. Nor does it contain a commitment to develop new estimates in the short-term.

The EAC has succeeded, however, in gaining more clarity over the failures of the Green Homes Grant scheme. The majority of the Scheme’s £2bn funding pot was withdrawn earlier this year and the scheme was then closed at short notice in March, in a move that proved almost universally unpopular across the green economy. Less than 10% of the promised vouchers were ultimately issued.  

MPs on the Committee have received admissions that BEIS did not consult stakeholders such as material suppliers, service providers, local authorities and trade bodies before rolling out the scheme. The EAC, alongside bodies such as the UK Green Building Council and the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), for BEIS to work with the Treasury to launch a replacement at the next Spending Review.

“Our commitment to invest in decarbonising our buildings remains unwavering, and we recognise the importance of long-term funding to sustainably grow the installer base and supply chain,” the response letter states.

“In many ways, the Government response repeats what the Committee already knows,” EAC Chairman Philip Dunne MP said.

“At best, it is a holding response for the hotly awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy. At worst, it is a lack of acknowledgment of the urgency needed to tackle sky-high emissions from our existing housing stock.

“I hope we will not be disappointed by the [Heat and Buildings Strategy], and that tangible action to implement the strategy – backed up by Treasury funding – is taken very soon after its publication.”

Now that Parliament has resumed after local elections, the new Strategy should be introduced in the coming weeks. As the built environment and heat sectors are some of the UK’s highest-carbon and most energy-intensive, Ministers have faced pressure for a more joined-up policy approach for years – including from the Government’s own Climate Change Committee (CCC).

Sarah George



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