Green homes grant applications surged in month before scheme was axed

Applications for a grant to cut carbon emissions from houses surged in the month before the £1.5bn scheme was shut down by the government.

The green homes grant, which was announced by Boris Johnson as a key measure to cut UK carbon emissions, was scrapped six months after its launch.

The abandonment of the £1.5bn programme, which offered households grants of up to £5,000 or £10,000 to put in insulation or low-carbon heating, leaves the UK without a plan for tackling one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

It came after stories of a chaotic scheme in which installers of renewable energy systems were left unpaid and householders were left waiting months for decisions on grant applications.

On Thursday government data revealed that the scheme was popular at its launch and in the final month of its life.

In March 2021, the final month of the scheme, there were 41,613 applications, the highest of any month. The next highest number of applications – 27,195 – was in October 2020, when the scheme launched.

Jess Ralston, of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a thinktank, said the data showed the public had an overwhelming desire to decarbonise their homes. She said a successor to the scheme should be brought in to meet the demand.

“Achieving our world-beating emissions targets won’t be possible without action on homes, now the most obvious policy gap. Filling this is not only vital to meeting long-term goals, but for bringing Brits along with the transition to a zero-carbon society,” Ralston said.

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“We can … see that households are up for improvements that were previously thought to be unpopular; solid wall insulation and low-carbon heating each account for a fifth of total applications. This new evidence, alongside lessons learned from the green homes grant, should give policymakers confidence to deliver the ambitious scheme that millions of families are desperate for.”

The government promised the grants would help refit 600,000 homes but the data shows just 95,748 households will benefit.

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “The green homes grant was an opportunity to create thousands of decent jobs in making our homes warmer and greener.” She said the government’s buildings and heat strategy, due out imminently, should learn the lessons of the failed grant scheme.

O’Grady said local councils should be given the resources to create more jobs and make all homes warmer and greener.

The grant programme was in trouble from its launch last September. The contract to administer it was given to a US company, and the Guardian revealed in January that the scheme was in chaos.

Last month a select committee of MPs delivered a damning assessment that found the scheme was “botched [in] implementation … the administration seems nothing short of disastrous”.

MPs on the environmental audit committee said there was little chance of meeting the UK’s target of net zero emissions by 2050 without a comprehensive programme to insulate Britain’s 19m draughty homes and switch from gas boilers to low-carbon heating. The MPs recommended an urgent overhaul but the scheme was scrapped by ministers.



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