Will the Government give homeowners cash to make properties greener?

‘Give homeowners cash to go green or miss 2050 net zero target’: Banks and energy giants tell government many simply can’t afford improvements

  • Banking and energy giants tell government they must help homeowners retrofit
  • They say many households can’t afford to make homes energy efficient
  • Without grants they say UK will fail to meet 2050 target for reaching net zero
  • Nationwide, British Gas, E.ON and Federation of Master Builders all join pledge

Major firms from the banking, energy and housing industries have told the Government they must offer homeowners cash grants to make their properties greener.

If it does not, the companies said the UK would risk missing its target to reach net zero carbon by 2050.

The pledge to government was convened by Nationwide Building Society and signed by 13 organisations including British Gas, E.ON and the Federation of Master Builders.

Demands: British firms have told the Government it must offer grants to help homeowners fund the cost of eco-friendly improvements, such as adding solar panels

It said that many homeowners in the UK ‘cannot afford the cost of making their homes energy-efficient, or don’t know how,’ and advocated for ‘collective action’ to get Britain ready for the 2050 target.

‘Ensuring people have the confidence and ability to make green improvements to their homes – creating a green housing revolution – is vital to tackle climate change,’ the letter continued.

Common green home improvements include improving insulation, fitting solar panels and replacing a gas boiler with a more sustainable alternative.  

The organisations called for a ‘national retrofit strategy’ which would not only provide financial support to homeowners, but also train more skilled tradespeople to carry out retrofits and revamp the Energy Performance Certificate system so it better reflected home improvements.

They also suggested that companies carrying out green improvements should be required to be Trustmark certified, so that homeowners could be confident in the quality of the work before parting with their cash. 

The 13 signatories 

  • British Gas
  • Energiesprong UK
  • E.ON
  • The Federation of Master Builders
  • Igloo Regeneration
  • Legal and General Modular Homes
  • Midas Group
  • Nationwide Building Society
  • Professor Tadj Oreszczyn of the UCL Energy Institue
  • Rockwool UK
  • Smart Metering Systems
  • Switchd
  • Trustmark

Worryingly, the letter companies also claimed that new homes were still being built that were not ‘fit for the future’ in terms of their energy efficiency, saying ‘just a fraction’ of new properties reached the EPC A rating.

Finally, they called for a major, ‘inspirational’ PR campaign to correct ‘misinformation’ among homeowners about going green.

The group identified seven ‘guiding principles’ they said were needed for a national retrofit strategy in order to remove the main barriers to change at scale, and to encourage greener homes, which we outline below. 

Claire Tracey, chief strategy and sustainability officer at Nationwide Building Society, said: ‘Making our 29 million homes greener is one of the most pressing issues of our time: buildings are the second largest source of carbon emissions in the UK. 

‘Together, we are asking the government to create a national retrofitting strategy that ensures the UK’s Paris Agreement commitments can be met. 

‘Anything less and we risk not only missing our climate targets, but also missing an opportunity to achieve higher-quality housing, lower energy bills, and new green jobs for the whole of the UK’.

Concerns are mounting about the cost of meeting the net zero target for consumers.

A recent report by the National Infrastructure commission suggested that annual household bills could eventually rise by up to £400 in order to fund the target, though that figure would only apply to the wealthiest households. 

Common green home improvements can be expensive to implement, and it can take many years for customers to recoup the cost in the form of lower energy bills.

Pricey: Replacing a gas boiler can be one of the more costly green home improvements

Pricey: Replacing a gas boiler can be one of the more costly green home improvements 

For example, an investigation by This is Money’s sister title, Money Mail, found that it would take more than 50 years to make back the £6,200 average spend on installing solar panels.

One of the more costly green improvements is replacing a gas-only boiler with a hydrogen or other renewable alternative. The sale of new, gas-only boilers in the UK could banned as early as 2026. 

The Government previously put in place a £2billion Green Homes Grant to help people fund improvements such as this, but this was scrapped in March after just six months due to problems with its implementation and administration. 

It has now been suggested that the Government relaunch the scheme, as well as a new ‘clean heat grant’ under which homeowners would be offered up to £7,000 to scrap their old gas boilers and replace them with greener alternatives.

The seven green commandments 

The firms who signed the letter made seven demands of Government:

1. Build green homes for the future now: Government must work hand-in-hand with industry to establish a roadmap to bringing the Future Homes Standard implementation forward. Just a fraction of new builds are currently built to EPC A standard. Until this changes, we are still building new homes that are not fit for the future

2. Create new jobs in green retrofitting: At present there aren’t enough skilled installers and tradespeople to retrofit all the nation’s homes. However, the construction sector cannot upskill until there is established demand. Government must work with industry to help stimulate demand and to create an ambitious skills strategy, which will provide good quality jobs across the UK

3. Make it fairly financed: Government could encourage consumers via a long-term commitment, including supplementary grant funding as a stimulus, and, critically, should help those who simply cannot afford to pay.

4. Make property fit for the future: It is time for the EPC to become a ‘living document’, akin to a building passport, that reflects changes made to the home

5. Support green homes with green power: Great strides have been made in the decarbonisation of UK energy, and we keenly anticipate the release of the Heat and Buildings Strategy. Clean energy and heat are a key to any national retrofit strategy

6. Regulate green retrofitting: Consumers need faith in the quality of the work if they are to retrofit. The government should regulate to ensure that all installers undertaking ‘green home’ retrofits are Trustmark certified and compliant with PAS standards

7. A public information campaign that inspires: Inertia and misinformation is rife regarding green. It’s time for an inspirational public information campaign that helps people understand what is possible for their home

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