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Tackling domestic energy efficiency after the demise of the Green Homes Grant

Imogen Jamie, senior client manager at Gemserv, sets out what is needed from a replacement for the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, which was dogged by administrative problems and closed to new applicants last month after handing out a fraction of its allotted budget.

Now that the Green Homes Grant has been scrapped, it leaves the UK without a clear plan for tackling emissions from domestic homes, which must reduce by 95 per cent to reach the 2050 net zero targets.

Renewable energy and low carbon technologies are proven, cost-effective and long-term solutions that reduce our carbon emissions and support both the economy and the government’s net zero targets. Significant changes in how we heat our homes will be required to achieve decarbonisation and a fabric first approach is the mainstay of any national policy initiative. Building and maintaining consumer confidence is also critical to deliver energy saving measures at scale and whatever replaces the Green Homes Grant, must offer a simple compelling service proposition that consumers understand and can easily access.

Many will be disappointed from the results of the Green Homes Grant, losing confidence in the government’s ability to create a long-term sustainable market to retrofit our homes for 2050. Achieving net zero was never going to be easy in an ever-changing environment, but if government builds on what it has learnt from historic energy efficiency retrofit schemes and creates a long-term stable policy environment, the market will respond to deliver the solutions required to achieve the required emission reductions. What won’t work is boom and bust of short-term planning and implementation that doesn’t give consumers time to understand a scheme, apply for support and enable the supply chain to mobilise and scale.

Reducing complexity and guaranteeing a stable policy environment will allow the market to invest in the infrastructure and workforce required to fix the UK’s leaky housing stock. Deploying a longer-term solution that can be flexed with market evolution and strong, clear public messaging, will improve the effectiveness of any future retrofit initiative. Innovative financial offerings will also drive our transition to a low-carbon economy, leveraging the benefits of both the private and public sector. It is no longer enough for one of the two to foster growth in the green sectors.

A holistic commitment to reducing homes’ carbon emissions, leveraging trigger points, and recognising the end-to-end carbon lifecycle of all consumption in a home is the only way to fully address domestic energy efficiency. Using a ‘one size fits all’ approach is suboptimal and tailored messaging to segmented consumer groups is key to achieving uptake.

In addition to this, a community approach to tackling energy efficiency which fully incorporates social housing and other similar community-level neighbourhood groups represents a significant opportunity to rollout energy efficiency improvements at scale.

A pay-as-you-save mechanism that can be adapted to suit each consumer group would offer considerable advantages as a delivery vehicle. It is critical to develop and deploy a mechanism that can support the mass rollout of energy efficient measures and low carbon technologies at scale. This must also be developed alongside a robust multi-stakeholder framework. Policies need to be carefully developed in a way that continue to promote the adoption of green finance products as they come to market.

Let’s hope COP26 – the UN climate conference being held in Glasgow in November this year – will play a key role in the UK’s efforts to address the climate crisis. It will be interesting to see what actions will be taken to accelerate to transition to net zero by 2050 in the UK.