Homeowners have been given an additional year to complete energy efficiency upgrades funded by the Green Homes Grant scheme.
The £2 billion scheme, funding at least two-thirds of the cost of efficiency upgrades like electric heat pumps and insulation, up to £5,000, launched at the end of September.
Homeowners originally had until just 31 March 2021 to have the upgrades completed. However, applicants have struggled to find certified and participating tradespeople in their local area. Works have also been delayed by the four-week lockdown in England.
Boris Johnson today confirmed that the scheme will be extended. Green Homes Grant vouchers will remain valid for three months from the date they are issued or until 31 March 2022, whichever is earlier. Homeowners will also be able to request an extension for circumstances outside of their control.
Lord Callanan, minister for climate change, said: “The Green Homes Grant scheme gives homeowners and landlords right across the country a cheaper way to make their homes more energy efficient and cut their bills—all while making their contribution to tackling climate change.
“Today’s announcement means an extra year to take advantage of this new scheme, helping households and tradespeople who can plan their workload and create new jobs in their communities. I would urge anyone to visit the Green Homes Grants website and see how they could benefit.”
However, an extended deadline might not overcome the biggest obstacle faced by the scheme: the reluctance of builders and installers to go through the accreditation process to participate.
According to government data, just 1,174 installers have signed up to the scheme, while more 36,000 homeowners have applied for grants. 62% of homeowners have expressed interest in the scheme in a YouGov poll, although just 600,000 grants are available.
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB), which represents the small building firms expected to deliver the upgrades, said its members are deterred by the complexity of the accreditation process, particularly due to the short time scale of the scheme.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The green homes grant scheme is a positive step forward but it is not enough … In its current form, many builders are concluding that the scheme does not merit them committing the level of investment needed.”
A director of a building firm interviewed by The Guardian said his firm had spent £6,000 and an estimated 160 hours of unpaid work to have his team accredited to participate in delivering the scheme. Another owner of a firm said he had given up due to the complexity of the process, despite previously meeting the requirements of other accreditation schemes.
However, Mike Fairman, chief executive of Checkatrade, online directory of tradespeople, said the problem was not the accreditation process but rather the lack of tradespeople with the requisite skills to complete the works.
“This year-long extension will allow homeowners more time to book a reputable tradesperson, however this doesn't solve the skills gap which has been prohibiting thousands of homeowners from taking up the grants.
“Put simply, there still aren't enough trained and qualified tradespeople to carry out the work—we know some of our accredited members are being contacted by homeowners over 50 miles from their usual patches as demand far outstrips supply.”
He urged interested homeowners to get in touch with a tradesperson as soon as possible.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has estimated that upgrades funded by the scheme could help households slash £200 a year from their energy bills and cut their annual carbon emissions by as much as 700kg.
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