The Green Homes Grant Scheme: 2 months later

The Green Homes Grant Scheme (GHGS) was launched nearly 2 months ago by Rishi Sunak, with a core focus to improve the energy efficiency of dwellings in England. It is a total of £2bn worth of funding and is split into two main tranches;

  • Core Green Homes Grant Scheme (£1.5bn)
  • Local Authority Delivery Scheme (£500m)

Green Homes Grant Scheme (Core)

The government will provide a voucher worth up to £5,000 or £10,000 (those who are deemed low-income) to help cover the cost of making energy efficient improvements to your home. Improvements could include insulating your home to reduce your energy use or installing low-carbon heating to lower the amount of carbon dioxide your home produces.

Vouchers must be redeemed, and improvements must be completed by 31 March 2021.

Details are being constantly released and are changing week by week, and it is important all those involved are kept informed. To that end, please ensure you keep your eye on Stroma social media and also the government website on a regular basis. More details will be released when the scheme administrator is appointed later this month.

To apply for the voucher, customers must either:

  • Own their home (including park homeowners, long-leaseholders and shared ownership)
  • Be a private or social landlord
  • The property must be in England to be eligible for the scheme.

Landlords cannot apply for the low-income portion of the scheme. New-build properties that have not previously been occupied are not eligible for the scheme.

The available measures are split into ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ measures.

Primary measures

The voucher must be used to install at least 1 primary measure. This can be an insulation measure and/or a low carbon heating measure.

1. Insulation measures

The following insulation measures are covered by the voucher:

  • solid wall
  • under floor
  • cavity wall
  • loft
  • flat roof
  • room in roof
  • insulating a park home

2. Low carbon heat measures

The following low carbon heating measures are covered by the voucher:

  • air or ground source heat pump
  • solar thermal (liquid filled flat plate or evacuated tube collectors)
  • biomass boilers

Secondary measures

If you install at least 1 primary measure, your voucher can be used to help cover the cost of any of the following secondary measures:

  • draught proofing
  • double/triple glazing (where replacing single glazed windows)
  • secondary glazing (in addition to single glazing)
  • external energy efficient doors (replacing single glazed or solid doors installed before 2002)
  • heating controls
  • hot water tank thermostats and insulation

The amount allowed towards the cost of secondary measures cannot exceed the amount claimed for primary measures.

We also now have updated information on what the grant will cover in addition to the measures which you can read here

The document outlines that the following can be covered by the grant;

  • Professional services to ensure compliance with standards (minimum PAS2030, ideally PAS2035 for insulation; or MCS for heating):
  • Detailed design drawings and calculations
  • Damp specialist and structural engineer costs
  • Modelling to evaluate moisture risk
  • Modelling to estimate payback
  • Air tightness tests to check for excessive infiltration and ensure adequate controlled ventilation

We can also see in the same document that ‘Professional Services’ are not covered by the grant where they are not linked to retrofit;

  • Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) not linked to a retrofit
  • Building surveys not linked to a retrofit
  • Building design, modelling and calculations not linked to a retrofit

Green Home Grant - Local Authority Delivery Scheme

£500m worth of funding will be ringfenced for Local Authorities, who will be able to bid for funding to support low-income homes that currently live in homes with an EPC rating of E, F or G. The package will comprise of two elements;

  • £200m Local Authority competition
  • £300m through Local Energy Hubs in 2020/21 for regional delivery by March 2022.

More information on this funding stream can be found at a dedicated website

Green Homes Grant - Areas of concern

Let me get this out there from the outset. I strongly believe that the £2bn funding announced by Rishi Sunak for improving the performance of dwellings, in the form of the Green Homes Grant Scheme (GHGS) is fantastic, necessary and a great way to kick start the retrofit industry. For too long has this industry been ignored and underfunded. We need funding to create certainty, jobs for now and the future, and impetus to all the UK to meet the biggest challenge this country has seen since the second world war – upgrading the existing housing stock; some 27 million dwellings; to meet our climate and energy commitments and improve health and comfort for our people.

However, £2bn is the very tip of the iceberg in terms of the funding needed to create a self-sustaining industry, armed and able to meet this long term and challenging goal. We need crystal clear strategy and certainty, with a roadmap of future funding, so that the industry can have the confidence to invest in new staff, training and technology. I would like to see this laid out within the 6 months allowed for the current round of Green Homes Grant Scheme funding. This above all else is what Stroma Certification is pushing for.

We cannot allow another phase of boom and bust for the industry, with a rush to spend money which risks the quality of work and consumer confidence. It will be damaging to the reputation of the industry if the we cannot deliver on the desired outcomes of the consumer and the government.

£1.5bn Ambition

Stroma Certification is concerned about the timescales involved in spending the money allocated to the GHGS. The ambition is to spend £1.5bn of the fund on privately owned dwellings by March 31st, which means the measures must be installed by then. The estimate is approx. 600,000 properties upgraded in 6 months. Even at the hight of ECO, we never saw 100,000 measures installed per month (see here), so this is a challenge, particularly over the winter months when external wall insulation installation are often difficult or not possible. The range of primary measures is also limiting – these must be installed to allow secondary measure to be done.

Stroma Certification would like the funding to be extended or allow an overspill of work that has been commissioned but not yet completed to be funded, with a defined period to allow this to happen – say an extra 6 months.

This will also allow for the scheme to be fully reviewed and lessons learned to be examined, in time for another round of funding.

Some of you will also be aware that the government intends for consumers who want to participate in the scheme, should be directed to the government’s own Simple Energy Advice website

It is very much worth exploring this site in your own time, as it is something that Energy Assessment schemes have been championing for a long time. It has recently been further developed in advance of the GHGS launch. Stroma Certification has been reviewing this website and the advice it produces, and through PEPA have been feeding back our findings to BEIS. We now know that the site is using the open EPC data to help produce recommendations and a plan for participants in the scheme. This is great news as it puts the EPC at the start of the process. However, the GHGS isn’t mandating that new EPCs are produced, which is a missed opportunity to use up to date data. There are some issues at this moment with the way that the data is interpreted with recommendations that are produced, around heating systems, and we hope BEIS use our recommendations to improve this service.

The Retrofit Process

I am also aware that PAS 2035, a standard designed to improve the retrofit process will only be required for ‘high risk’ buildings. I appreciate that the market may not be ready right now for retrofit at scale, and to require it for this round of funding may slow the process down, but it would have been a great opportunity to get the whole process running correctly. Some of the funding could have been ringfenced for training and upgrading software and delivery provision. Hopefully the GHGS wont impact too heavily on ECO delivery and we can start to see PAS 2035 implementation through this scheme. Although, it must be said, there has been further transitional arrangements in ECO to allow the previous process (PAS 2030:2107) to carry on later into the transitional period, which is somewhat disappointing.

That’s said, by July 2021, we should see around 20,000-25,000 measures being installed per month via PAS 2035, and this should give us the data and evidence to then push for this standard to be rolled out in any further GHGS funding later next year. Lets get our ducks in a row!

Green Homes Grant - What are the opportunities right now?

So, what involvement will Energy Assessors and Retrofit Coordinators/Assessors have in this round of GHGS? Let’s explore;

GHGS - High risk buildings

These will require the use of PAS 2035 and so will need a Retrofit Coordinator (and if the building is listed) a Retrofit Assessor who has been upskilled to Level 3 Award for Energy Efficiency for Older & Traditional Buildings qualification. It is therefore worth speaking with installers listed on the TrustMark business portal to see if they are in need of coordinators and assessors, if they plan on completing work on high rise or listed buildings.

GHGS - Local Authority Delivery Scheme

These will require a pre and post-install EPCs to receive the funding. All measures installed will need to be done in line with PAS 2035, so Retrofit Assessors and Coordinator’s will be required. If you work for a local authority or social housing provider, you should get in touch with the local delivery teams to discuss their plans.

GHGS – Provision of Advice and services

As noted above, the main advice delivery for the scheme is via the Simple Energy Advice website. However, in the last week, the government has confirmed that a consumer is free to get advice from other sources, and we believe Domestic Energy Assessors, Green Deal Advisors and Retrofit Assessors are all perfectly placed to offer advice and produce information for home owners wanting to get involved with the Scheme.

The government has also confirmed that whilst EPCs and PAS 2035 are not required for the core scheme, they can be paid for if being produced for a retrofit project (i.e. Green Homes Grant). Therefore, there will be scope for a customer to request a new EPC, potentially as a result of an old/out of date EPC to model what measures are possible. They can also insist that the project is done via PAS 2035 and this cost appears to be covered by the grant.

It is also worth noting that the government has confirmed that Landlords will only be able to get involved in GHGS if their property already meets the minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES) or have a valid exemption registered with their local authority. This is big news and means that Landlords currently renting out properties that don’t meeting MEES and have no exemption, cannot use the grant to pay for the upgrade works. This should mean that Landlords who aren’t currently complying with the law are further incentivised to get an up to date EPC. This is very much worth circulating around letting agents and managing agents.

In summary

The Green Homes Grant Scheme is a great initiate and has the full support of Stroma Certification. However, it needs further development and must be the first part of a much bigger and more ambitious road-mapped strategy for improving the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of the buildings in our country.

Stroma Certification will continue to update our members on this fast-moving grant, so please do keep an eye on our social media and new pages for the latest information.

Andrew Parkin, Director of Energy Certification at Stroma Certification Ltd