Insulation being inserted in ceiling

Government chastised over Green Homes Grant scheme

Longer-term approach sought as NAO labels the failed initiative overly complex and unsatisfactory
15 September 2021 , Steve Smethurst

A National Audit Office (NAO) report has criticised the Green Homes Grant scheme, created to help insulate English homes, which collapsed after just six months. It closed at the end of March and since then the NAO has examined its performance, implementation, procurement and management.

The NAO verdict is that it was an overly complex scheme that could not deliver a satisfactory level of performance in the time available. It reported: “Despite the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s considerable efforts, the rushed delivery and implementation of the scheme has significantly reduced the benefits that might have been achieved, caused frustration for homeowners and installers, and had limited impact on job creation for the longer term.” 

In terms of positives, the report aimed to identify lessons for future schemes against a backdrop of what it termed “previous problematic attempts by government” to implement domestic energy efficiency schemes.

Green Party Green New Deal spokesperson Zoe Nicholson was among those who were left disappointed. She said: “The Green Homes Grants could have resulted in a massive wave of jobs. Instead, it barely made a splash. People are on board with taking steps that will help reach net zero so it’s disappointing that this mishmash of schemes hasn’t been easy for householders to engage with.”

Peter Smith, director of policy and advocacy at National Energy Action (NEA), pointed to the early optimism the scheme had engendered. He told EHN: “It was very welcome that domestic energy efficiency was at the heart of last year’s Summer Statement when the UK government introduced a much-needed scheme in England to help reduce needless energy costs and keep homes warmer for less.

“There was significant interest in the grant. Regrettably, due to significant challenges with the administration of the scheme, most low-income households who have applied are still waiting for assistance and continue to live in cold, damp homes.” 

However, both Nicholson and Smith said the NAO report provides vital recommendations on how to learn from the experience, with the former saying: “For a genuinely green recovery from COVID, local authorities need to be given the proper funding and support to play a significant role in decarbonisation – making it a priority in both the public and private sectors.”

CIEH policy and campaigns manager Tamara Sandoul said that raising the energy efficiency of the existing housing stock should remain a key priority for the government going forward.

“The benefits would not only include the reduction in carbon emissions but also contribute to supporting better health outcomes for those living in cold homes,” she said.

“It is clear that this scheme was rushed and the implementation has been disappointing. Nevertheless, the huge demand from homeowners shows that a grant scheme should be part of a well-managed and long-term project to bring homes in all tenures up to a decent level over time. A longer-term approach would also help with green job creation as well as investment in the green heating industry.”

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