We applied for a grant under the government’s Green Homes Grant scheme, 12 days after it started, to replace our gas boiler with an air source heat pump. We’d already signed a contract with a registered installer, CB Heating. That was five weeks ago.
When I chased the scheme, I was told that high demand was causing delays. I was then contacted by the installer who told me the scheme had led to a surge in demand and they had no further capacity before it expires at the end of March. Other installers we have contacted are also fully booked. Even if we eventually receive a grant, the scheme only allows us three months to make use of it.
BC, Romford, Essex
You are among hundreds of householders to have been caught out by the initiative which sounds promising on paper, but is hamstrung by its own terms and conditions. Launched in September, it provides up to GBP5,000 towards eco-friendly home improvements, and up to GBP10,000 for households on low incomes.
However, the grants were initially only valid until March 2021 and work has to be carried out by certified traders registered with TrustMark. The complexity and expense of qualifying for such a short-term scheme has meant that only a few traders are registered and homeowners wanting to take advantage of the subsidy are unable to find an installer.
CB Heating tells me that the scheme is a “national outrage” that has lost it GBP450,000 of contracts. Your order had to be cancelled because delays to the grant vouchers led to a build-up of installations that had to be completed before the end of March 2021.
“We took on an additional 15 members of staff in preparation for the increase in business, but the delay in the vouchers has meant customers putting their installations on hold, and the time left to complete the work has been eroded,” says managing director, Clayton Browne. “With an increased wage bill, and a road block on income coming in, we’ll have no choice but to furlough or lay off staff. The scheme that was meant to boost our industry has certainly caused us one of our biggest challenges to date!”
Last week, the government announced that it would extend the grant until March 2022 and said it was working with the industry to encourage more installers to register. The extra 12 months might still not be enough to meet demand.
“Cases like this, where demand is higher than supply with installers booked up for months ahead, show the importance of the government continuing to invest in this, or similar schemes, over the next few years,” says Mike Thornton, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust. “Such certainty would then allow the supply chain to, in turn, invest in expanding its workforce, creating new green jobs and ensuring that bottlenecks are eliminated to the benefit of both householders and the UK’s path to net zero.”