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As the Green Homes Grant is scrapped and merged into a social housing energy initiative, Russell Jones explores the issues

News that the government is to scrap the Green Homes Grant (GHG) at the end of this month is seen as a failure by some as it reached just 10% of the 600,000 homes promised and was beset by paperwork and delays in voucher payments.

There were concerns about funding, the speed of assessments and the availability of contractors to complete work on time and my colleague Viki Dringer, who went through the process to get a heat pump fitted, wrote about the GHG in this Hub blog – comparing it to having a baby!

A report on the BBC website by environment analyst, Roger Harrabin says that the scheme will be stopped on Wednesday, with the budget now reallocated to new insulation fund to be run by councils.

This £300m GHG will be combined with budget from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to enable £562m to be targeted at lower income households. The new scheme has a target of helping improve energy efficiency in around 50,000 social homes.

Editor of Specification magazine, Paul Groves had already asked whether the GHG was doomed in his latest posting on The Hub.

One area that could really make a difference right now is installing a commercial heat pump

Russell Jones Russell Jones Content and communications manager

A new approach

So is there anything wrong in seeing that something isn’t working and changing policy to find other ways to make a difference?

Well no, as long as the new approach achieves what we need to.

And there is certainly a lot to do if we are ever to reach the ambitious targets government has set to bring all UK greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 – compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels.

And social housing has already led the way in carbon reduction, which has also had the added advantage of reducing fuel poverty.

The social housing sector has embraced the adoption of heat pumps to remove thousands of oil and coal heating systems from its housing stock, benefiting the tenants, their pockets, and the carbon footprint of the Housing Association.

Ambitious enough?

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said the Government is “ensuring households across the country enjoy warmer homes that are cheaper to heat and emit fewer emissions — while creating new work for local plumbers, builders and tradespeople.”

He adds that this fund should be seen as “an initial down payment on the UK Government’s plan to invest over £9bn into eradicating fuel poverty, improving the lives and homes of low-income households.”

But is targeting 50,000 homes enough? Whilst it will help improve the lives of those tenants targeted, what do we do about the private sector?

There are an estimated 19 million existing private and rented homes built prior to 2000, that we simply have to find ways of improving if we are to get anywhere near net zero?

How do we encourage homeowners to adopt the green, sustainable initiatives that they say they want?

Heat pumps are now seen as a viable and credible alternative to gas and oil heating and the heat pump market is ready to ramp up to meet the 600,000 installations a year that the Government is predicting by 2028 – which is really not that far off!

But price remains a barrier, although we are starting to see reductions in the installation prices quoted from companies pioneering and bold enough to seize the opportunity.

Don’t forget commercial

One area that could really make a difference right now though is the commercial sector as the business case for installing a heat pump is much easier to make.

Commercial heat pumps are now available that can deliver water up to temperatures of 90 degrees Celsius, supplying all the hot water a business could need. Lower temperature heat pumps can heat the building when necessary.

And don’t forget that other heat pump technology that simply doesn’t get the recognition it deserves – air conditioning.

With the ability to supply simultaneous heating and cooling, modern air conditioning – running on increasingly sustainable electricity, is helping thousands of businesses lower their running costs and decrease their carbon footprint.

So, whilst we wait for new initiatives from government that will help encourage the nation towards zero carbon, there are still things that business can do to help get us all on the road to net zero.

Russell Jones is content and communications manager and curator of The Hub