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Environmental Audit Committee says domestic decarbonisation support has been ‘woefully inadequate’

Image: Dominika Roseclay (Pexels).

Image: Dominika Roseclay (Pexels).

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has lent its weight to calls for the Green Homes Grant to be rolled over beyond the end of March 2021.

In a new report, the Committee cautions that the government is failing to grasp the enormous challenge of decarbonising the UK’s housing stock and has dramatically underestimated the costs.

Domestic emissions account for 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gases, and need significant improvements if the country hopes to hit its net zero target of 2050.

The cost of decarbonising UK homes has been set at between £35 billion and £65 billion by the government, but this fails to take into account a number of housing groups. With 19 million homes requiring energy efficiency installations, the Committee has argued this could cost £18,000 per home, even before the installation of a heat pump. Therefore it will cost far more than the government has outlined.

EAC’s report Energy Efficiency of Existing Homes argued that the government must front-load support schemes such as the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery Scheme, and roll them out without delay.

The Committee’s chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said government investment had been “woefully inadequate”.

“The £9 billion that the government pledged at the election was welcome, but 16 months on, there appears to be no plan nor meaningful delivery. Funding allocated for the Green Homes Grant has not been spent, with only £125 million worth of vouchers – of the £1.5 billion budget – issued.”

It follows calls by a number of groups to rollout the Green Homes Grant beyond its deadline as the scheme has been beset by problems since it was introduced in September 2020. Administrative delays - with the scheme administered by American firm ICF – has left members of the public waiting months to be issued vouchers and there being delays in installers being paid for example.

NGOs and thinktanks have written to the Prime Minister detailing the problems faced in the scheme and calling for it to be extended so as not to derail the green recovery.

Statistics released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) last week found there had been 5,804 installations of green technology to date under the Green Homes Grant, with 906 of these being low carbon heating. The figures showed a strong appetite for the scheme with 123,537 voucher applications by the end of February 2021, but only 28,277 issued and 2,908 paid.

The EAC’s report makes a number of other suggestions to improve energy efficiency, such as overhauling the EPC methodology, supporting the rollout of Building Renovation Passports and looking to use the national infrastructure bank as a vehicle to finance improvements.

Additionally, the Chancellor should consider changes to VAT within the Buildings Strategy, such as reinstating the reduced rate of VAT payable on energy saving materials at 5% and expanding this to include energy storage, heat pumps and electric vehicle charging.

“Realism needs to be injected into the government,” finished Dunne. “A much better understanding of cost, pace, scale and feasibility of skills development is desperately needed for net zero Britain.”

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