In September 2020, Chancellor of Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, published plans that allowed up to 600,000 homes within the UK to receive grant funding.

The Green Homes Grant enabled homeowners to make improvements to their homes that would make their homes more energy-efficient.

Green Home Grants

This was done with the aim in mind that household energy emissions would be lower, while homeowners saw the benefit of smaller energy bills. However, by March 31st the following year, only 6 months after its launch the scheme had been scrapped, with only 10% of homes receiving the improvements.

So what went wrong? The grant was eligible to homeowners and landlords – this also included members of the traveller community, who owned their home on a site; it was not available to people living in a new-build property or owners of commercial premises. Residents of England were the only beneficiaries of the grant, with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, having their own versions of the scheme.

The scheme enabled homeowners to make more energy-efficient improvements to their homes, under two categories: Primary and Secondary improvements.

Primary improvements included:

  • Low-carbon heating installations: biomass boilers; solar thermal panels; and air or ground source heating pumps; hybrid heating pumps.
  • Insulation: wall cavity; floor; or loft.

Secondary improvements:

  • Double or triple glazing
  • Draught-proofing
  • Energy-efficient doors
  • Heating Controls.

The scheme did not include replacing old, or poorly efficient gas boilers or solar PV panels (used for generating electricity). On approval of the application, vouchers were sent to contribute towards the cost of the work. These vouchers could be up to the value of £5000, covering up to two-thirds of the final cost. However, those from low-income households could receive vouchers of up to £10,000 and did not need to make any financial contributions.

Unfortunately, the scheme had been plagued with problems. Firstly, it had been frequently reported that the application form was overly complicated – not to mention, the difficulty in finding a registered contractor. Many were keen to apply, but the vouchers were slow to arrive. With the scheme being scrapped so early on, it left many not receiving their vouchers. This predominately affected those in the North of England, with 40% of applications from this area.

Contractors experienced problems too, with many not receiving payment for the work they had done. It had been reported that many businesses recruited for the installation work were owed thousands of pounds – in some cases, nearly £20,000. This was problematic, especially for small contactor businesses.

Unlike the Green Homes Grant, ECO (Energy Company Obligation) does not rely on a voucher scheme and is available UK-wide. Launched in December 2018, the ECO scheme will install insulation, such as: loft, cavity wall, solid wall, and underfloor. What sets ECO apart from Green Homes Grant, is the replacing or repairing of older and less efficient boilers and heating systems. Applying for ECO has been reported as been much easier than the previous grant scheme. By September 2020, nearly 300,000 homes had more energy-efficient improvements installed – thanks to the ECO scheme.