A survey of industry members involved in the installation of technologies eligible under the Green Homes Grants scheme has reinforced claims that administrative delays are behind the low deployment of a £1.5 billion worth of vouchers.
More than 100,000 vouchers applied for and millions of pounds worth of work already undertaken by installers, but to date, only 20,000 vouchers have been issued and even fewer payments for completed work have been made.
The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), Solar Energy UK, Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd (REAL) and the Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Contractors Scheme (HIES) are calling on the Government to implement a four-point plan to address the issues in the scheme:
Immediate acceleration of payments and processing of vouchers to address installers’ cashflow concerns and increase pace of installations for consumers
A greater administrative role established for the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, which has the expertise and existing relationships with installers, auditors and established consumer bodies in the zero-carbon home retrofitting market
Greater transparency of the auditing process – particularly the cost criteria of products and installation works should be made visible
A commitment in the upcoming Budget to use all of the underspent 2020/21 budget in future years through a longer-term programme of zero-carbon retrofitting until the end of this parliament, applying lessons learned from the successful Local Authority Delivery scheme
The four industry bodies surveyed 194 members, yielding the following results:
Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of survey responders have completed work under the Green Homes Grant. The remaining installers identify concerns with the operation of the scheme as their main reason for not participating
Of this group who are yet to be convinced to take part, the majority (72 percent) state that they are waiting to see if improvements can be made to the turnaround of payments, before they will reconsider their involvement
Of those installers already working under the scheme, over three quarters (76 percent are ‘concerned about the time it takes to receive voucher payments’
Over a third (35 percent) of responders state that delays to scheme payments, is now threatening the viability of their businesses
Over half (51 percent) of installers state that they have hired new people, given an expectation that the scheme would generate a significant volume of new enquiries
Over a third (34 percent) said they were unlikely to retain these new staff, unless significant improvements are made to the operation of the scheme, including the flow of payments
A further fifth (17 percent) of installers state that they have already let their recent new hires go as given issues with working with the voucher scheme
“The Green Homes Grant has good intentions, but it has been over-engineered to the point where it is now significantly affecting how our installers operate” said MCS chief executive Ian Rippin. “Delays to payments are especially damaging and we are calling for consumer incentives like this to be simplified to enable renewable energy businesses to do what they do best, without worrying about their financial health.”
Solar Energy UK chief executive Chris Hewett, added that Solar Energy UK is keen to see the Green Homes Grants scheme made a success and that the government needs to work with industry to make the process simpler and clearer for installers and consumers alike.
“Payments for completed work must be made without further delay, and any unspent funds recommitted in following years” said Mr Hewett. “If this government is serious about driving a green economic recovery it has to put its money where its mouth is.”
The government has faced mounting pressure to address the administrative failings of the scheme in recent weeks from both industry and politicians, with the Environmental Audit Committee’s 3rd Parliamentary report calling for the scheme to “be urgently overhauled and extended to provide greater long-term stimulus to the domestic energy efficiency sector.”
The apparent lack of interest and accountability here is scandalous. In a country top heavy with financial and administrative capacity it is scandalous that the task of overseeing the scheme has been farmed out to a stateside company who appear totally incompetent. The whole process is in dire need of a shake up and heads should roll.