For all the talk of “Build Back Greener” post-pandemic, Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, is no longer putting his money where his mouth is.
The UK government has abandoned its Green Homes Grant scheme, which Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced on July 8th last year. He had pledged £3Bn (~€3.5Md) to reduce CO2 emissions produced by heating buildings, working towards the country’s carbon net zero 2050 target.
The scheme had offered British households up to £10,000 (~€11.700) on insulation and low-carbon heating.
This sum was criticised for being significantly smaller than, for example, the French and German governments’ commitments of £13.5Bn (~€16Md) and £36Bn (~€42Md) respectively for similar strategies. Central EU funding will help other countries. A report from the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee this week found the government scheme inefficient for the task of making the UK’s homes energy efficient1.
The parliamentary committee deemed the scheme “nothing short of disastrous”; ill conceived and “botched” in implementation. Though it promised to create green jobs, some installation companies had made staff redundant because of payment hold-ups.
The government said uptake was limited. However, by the end of February, over 123,000 applications were submitted, progressing to 28,000 pay-outs and 5,800 installations. Homeowners said it was hard to access the grants or get a response. Only 1,174 installers signed up to the scheme, others commenting that it was tangled in red tape and the required accreditation didn’t warrant investing the time.
Launched in September, the short-lived scheme will end next week.
Today, UK Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (pictured) announced £1.3Bn (~€1.5Md) will instead be diverted to local authorities over the next year, through which lower-income households can access grants for work to improve energy efficiency.
The news echoes the government’s decision to abandon its Green Deal scheme in 2015. Similarly, it made grants available to insulate homes, but its sudden end pulled the rug from under householders’ plans.
It’s also comparable to the UK’s Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) (RIP). The scheme, funding small-scale renewable energy generation, ran from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2019, following an announcement in 2015. Arguably, this cessation after householders committed to the scheme could leave them in a worse position than the insulations schemes which provide a grant, because the government funding was paid in quarterly installments once the householder has invested the initial outlay for installation.
The UK’s lack of drive to decarbonise its economy arguably undermines its role as host of November’s next UN climate talks, COP26.
1. Net Zero impossible unless urgent action taken on energy efficiency this decade, UK Parliament, 2021-03-22
UK government scraps green homes grant after six months [and linked articles], The Guardian, 2021-03-27
Green Homes Grant scheme to insulate houses axed, BBC News, 2021-03-27
Green Deal funding to end, government announces, BBC News, 2015-07-23
About the FIT scheme, Ofgem, 2020-11-17