‘The goalposts must stop moving’: call for stability from UK campaign for green houses | Energetic efficiency

Richard Derrington was one of the first people to apply for a high-profile government grant to decarbonize his home, a cottage in the Cotswolds, and help the UK meet its goal of being net zero by 2050.

His speed of execution counted little as he faced months of delays, bureaucracy and repeated requests to prove his identity. A year after applying for the £ 5,000 green house grant, Derrington finally had the satisfaction of seeing a new heat pump installed in his backyard.

“I guess we’re one of the lucky ones,” he said. “God knows how many hours it took us and our supplier to get to where we are now. But the nightmare will stay with me forever.

The Derrington property was one of 47,500 domestic buildings – of the 600,000 pledged – that received one of the now suspended grants to make them more energy efficient. According to government calculations, that leaves 18,952,500 properties that still need to be reduced in carbon and energy if the country has any hope of meeting that net zero goal.

“The green home subsidy just did not achieve what it was supposed to do: drive the adoption of household renewables, bolster confidence in the sector and give installers a much needed boost,” he said. said Ian Rippon, general manager of renewable energy certification. MCS body.

And it’s not just this grant that withered and died. Dan Bovill, a renewable energy installer who runs SolarTherm UK in Essex, remembers many of the ideas that have been scrapped over the past 10 years, such as the solar industry grants under the scheme. feed-in tariffs (FIT), which were promised, hesitated and then cut.

Some companies have spent an average of £ 87,000 preparing for the Green House Grants by getting the necessary certifications, hiring staff and promoting the program, then downsizing due to delays in issuing certificates. vouchers and payments, according to the evidence. to the deputies of the public accounts committee. “It’s often the administrative costs of setting up these programs that send small businesses,” Bovill said.

The government’s latest bid, a boiler upgrade program to support the transition from gas boilers to heat pumps in buildings, will provide grants of £ 5,000 to households up to a total of £ 450million , far less than the pledged £ 1.5 billion available for the green house grant.

As the countdown begins next spring, industry figures, activists and politicians are united in the need for this program and future projects to be long-term, properly funded, accountable and effective.

Given the colossal scale of the task at hand, goals must stop moving and government policy in this area must be clear, stable and sustainable, ”said Philip Dunne, Conservative Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee. “Ahead of the 2019 election, £ 9 billion was pledged to take energy efficiency measures. It is certain that the current financing plans will be well below this total. “

Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary for climate change and net zero, said: “Labor would launch a nationwide mission to, within a decade, modernize the 19 million homes below decent insulation standards . We would do this by investing £ 6 billion a year in a house-by-house, street-by-street program for insulation and zero carbon energy. The program would be led by local authorities to provide warmer housing and lower energy bills. “

Elsewhere in Europe, attempts to decarbonize domestic properties are proceeding at a rate that owners like Derrington can only dream of.

In France, the government has launched a device similar to the green housing subsidy, also as part of a post-Covid green recovery. My Renovation Bonus (My Renovation Bonus) provided € 75 per square meter for insulation and € 4,000 for a heat pump, comparable to the £ 5,000 given to UK households. The average response time to a request is 11 and a half days.

Jess Ralston, of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, an independent nonprofit, said the French program was considered a success, with 190,000 applications submitted at the end of last year and 380,000 to the mid-2021.

In Germany, the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau The program (Reconstruction Credit Institute) has been in place for 10 years and covers many aspects of renovating homes to make them energy efficient and less carbon dependent.

Ralston’s analysis shows that in 2019 KfW had 326,000 applications, and the following year 600,000, due to increased use of renewable heat and energy efficiency in new buildings and existing. She said Germany had succeeded in mobilizing 83 billion euros in private funding in 2020 for its programs.

Household buildings account for 19% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said the road to their decarbonization must start with immediate action on insulation so that low carbon heating systems work efficiently.

This is a message echoed by activists from the direct action group Insulate Britain. “This is what our supporters are saying, nine of whom have been in prison since mid-August,” said Liam Norton, spokesperson for the group. “Why don’t they just do the job? “

A government spokesperson said: “We have taken the experience of the Green Home Grant into account when designing new measures, with a commitment to go further and faster by investing 6.6 billion pounds in improving the energy efficiency of our buildings, including 1.3 billion pounds. year only to upgrade up to 50,000 other homes.

About Christopher Easley

Christopher Easley

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