With the Government’s ‘Green Revolution’ now well underway, the appetite for improving the energy efficiency of our housing stock has never been healthier. But how do you know which solutions are right for you and which funding route to take? Gary Wylie from insulation installers Beinn Group explains.
Dr Peter’s Bonfield’s ‘Each Home Counts’ report, published by the Government in 2016, stated that 23% of the UK’s carbon emissions came from domestic buildings — and in a nation where we’re hoping to achieve net zero carbon by 2050, that’s a sizeable CO2 contributor which needs addressing. The Report was commissioned because the Government wanted to properly understand what the challenges were for improving the energy efficiency of our housing stock, and how we might go about overcoming them. It made a number of very well considered recommendations, and was the driving force behind the recently launched ‘Green Homes Grant’ — a scheme which takes a ‘whole home’ approach to energy efficiency, rather than looking at isolated solutions.
Following the launch of the £2bn Green Homes Grant in July 2020, there has been heavy campaigning by both the Government and the energy saving industry to sign customers up for reduced cost retrofit energy saving measures. A full range of primary measures, such as cavity wall or loft insulation, and secondary, including smart heating controls, are available and customers must register centrally (or via a registered installer) in order to start the process rolling.
As you’d expect, the grants available vary dependent on circumstances and social landlords can apply for two thirds of the cost of improvements, with grants capped at £5,000. Some funding has been set aside for local authorities too and the suggestion is for this to be used to improve the energy efficiency of low-income households in your area.
It’s good to know funding streams are available, but the Green Homes Grant is not the only one out there. ECO for example, the Energy Company Obligation is another government scheme aimed at reducing carbon emissions and tackling fuel poverty. It’s been running for some years now and we’re currently delivering ECO version 3. But which to choose?
One clear guide is the Green Homes Grant can be applied to properties with an EPC rating of D or below; ECO on the other hand is only for E, F or G-rated properties — both can be used for social housing stock. At the end of the day though, all you want to do is improve the energy efficiency of your housing stock and help bring households out of fuel poverty, yet the minefield of funding and how to manage it, is taking up more than its fair proportion of your time.
The answer to this is to engage with the right installation partner — in doing so, you can achieve your objective of improving your housing stock and the lives of your residents, without having had to project manage anything. But who can you trust?
The Each Home Counts report highlighted the need to establish an industry standard for energy saving installations. There have been various accreditation bodies working in this field for years, but until now, there hasn’t been a standout, consumer-recognised, stamp of approval like there is for gas engineers, or housebuilders, for example. That’s changed now and any tradespeople wanting to deliver work through the Green Homes Grant or ECO must be registered with either Trustmark, or the Microgeneration Certification Scheme and have PAS 2035 accreditation.
A step up from PAS 2030, PAS 2035 is the new overarching retrofit standards framework providing specifications for installing energy saving measures in domestic buildings. Again, it was introduced following recommendations of the Each Home Counts report and no tradesperson can undertake work under the Green Homes Grant, or ECO without it.
With these standards now in place, social housing providers and local authorities can confidently engage with energy saving installers to manage their retrofit programme from start to finish. Through ECO and the Green Homes Grant, housing stock will only be assessed from a whole home energy efficiency point of view, with every suitable retrofit measure given due consideration. Recommended measures will then be installed in the right order — addressing the fabric of the housing stock first and adding renewable energy systems for example, as secondary measure.
In my opinion, this is how we should have been doing things years ago, but without proper regulation in the industry that never could have been achieved. One thing to be aware of is deadlines. These schemes are up and running now, but they will not be here forever. Local authorities wanting to apply for a Green Homes Grant must do so by 30th September 2021 and the deadline for the next round of ECO funding is 31st March 2022.
There’s mountain yet to climb to bring the energy efficiency of our housing stock up to where it needs to be, but I think we’re heading up the right path. Remember though, help is always on hand if you need it.