Opinion piece by John Blower, CEO
Energy Transitions welcomes the announcement by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) this week that installation of solar thermal systems and heat pumps will both be part of the new £2 bn Green Homes Grant programme, alongside energy efficiency measures.
The allocation of such substantial funding to the important challenge of improving the energy efficiency of, and decarbonising heat in, UK homes shows great vision and could, if implemented well, transform the UK insulation, heat pump and solar thermal industries, creating tens of thousands of jobs in the green economy.
Such a programme would provide a much needed ‘step-up’ in the size of the UK market for low-carbon heating systems and in the capacity of the supply-chain.
The crucial importance of a well-thought out programme structure
The success of the Green Homes Grant in meeting the Government’s objectives of improving the warmth of homes for 600,000 households, securing a green recovery from coronavirus and protecting and creating jobs, while also saving people money and cutting carbon, will depend on how well the programme is designed.
Some sources, including the TrustMark web-site, suggest the Green Homes Grant programme will only run until 31st March 2021, although BEIS guidance states that the Local Authority Delivery element of the programme, which accounts for 25% of the programme’s £2 bn budget, will extend until 31st March 2022.
The end-date of the programme is critical. It is simply unrealistic to think that the UK energy efficiency and low carbon heating sectors can ramp up their delivery capacity, with the associated investment (in training, stock, recruitment etc.) required in time to deliver the volume of work involved by 31st March 2021. The challenge will be made even greater by the fact that the bulk of work would need to be carried out in winter months and visits to customers’ houses may be made difficult by the ongoing pandemic.
Even if the energy efficiency and low carbon heating sectors were to somehow grow capacity at the rate needed, what then would happen in April 2021?
And end-date of 31st March 2021 could therefore lead to a woefully unsuccessful programme and a huge missed opportunity.
It would therefore be much better if the Green Homes Grant programme were to be structured over a longer period, running at least until 31st March 2022 and perhaps to 31st March 2023. Thought should also be given to life after the end of the programme, so that the energy efficiency and low carbon heating sectors have a chance to create businesses that can achieve sustainable growth in the medium term, which will be essential if the UK is to meet its Climate Change Act carbon targets and its 2050 zero carbon commitment.