Another government green-scheme bites the dust

Article source: Marc da Silva

Over the weekend, and just six months after its launch, the government ditched its flagship green homes grant scheme.
The £1.5bn scheme was set up to offer grants to households of up to £10,000 to install insulation or low-carbon heating. Although applications in progress will be completed, no new applications will be taken after the end of March.

The scrapping of the green grant means that the tens of thousands of jobs it was expected to generate will no longer come about. In fact there are reports that building companies have actually laid off staff due to the problems that encountered in dealing with the red-tape of applications and installations.

The demise of the scheme comes six years after the ditching of the ‘green deal loan scheme’, that was supposed to be a ‘transformational’ change and the ‘biggest home improvement programme since the second world war’.

And that itself was just another ‘flagship policy’ that bit the dust. The government’s track record is littered with failure in tackling carbon emissions. They have ended onshore windfarm subsidies, cut solar energy subsidies, and scrapped plans to make all new UK homes carbon-neutral.

With the UK hosting Cop26, the UN climate talks, in November, the demise of the latest scheme has been described as ‘an embarrassment’ and ‘a disaster in terms of the U.K. getting on track to net zero’ carbon emissions.

As with so many government initiatives the green grant scheme has promised much and delivered relatively little. By the end of February there were over 123,000 applications for the grants but just 28,000 vouchers were issues and only 5,800 energy efficient installations made.

The Environmental Audit Committee of MPs last week declared that the implementation of the scheme had been ‘botched’ and the administration of it ‘seems nothing short of disastrous’. An urgent overhaul of the scheme was recommended but it seems that the effort of doing so was too much for the government to swallow – hence the scrapping.

It is estimated that the ending of the scheme leaves around 20 million less-well-off households without any source financial help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Draughty homes alone are said to be contributing around 14% of carbon emissions.

The government has said that an extra £300m will be earmarked for helping people on low-incomes gain access to energy efficiency improvements.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the secretary of state for business and energy, said on Saturday:

“Upgrading the country’s homes with energy efficiency measures means we can cut emissions and save people money on their energy bills.

“Today’s funding boost will mean even more households across England are able to access these vital grants through their local authority.

“This latest announcement takes our total energy efficiency spending to over £1.3bn in the next financial year, giving installers the certainty they need to plan ahead, create new jobs and train the next generation of builders, plumbers and tradespeople.”

Given that last summer the headline figure for greening of homes was trumpeted as being £2.5bn it is a little hard to see how taking a hatchet to the budget can be described as a ‘funding boost’.