Green Homes: Has the Government missed a trick?

I will admit to being disappointed that the Government’s Green Homes Grant offers very limited opportunities for the glazing industry. I’ll go on to explain why I think they’ve missed a trick, but I do understand that the scheme is designed to support the move to carbon-neutral homes and if there’s sufficient take-up, it will help to lay the foundations for that.

The scheme prioritises solid-wall, cavity, underfloor and roof insulation, air and ground-source heat pumps, and solar panels. It’s tackling the basics. Unless these measures are already in place, there’s no grant funding to support what the Government refers to as secondary measures which include double or triple glazing and energy-efficient doors. The devil, as always, is in the detail. Installers across the country will be frustrated that grants are only available to partially fund upgrades from single glazing.

Now we all know that glazing technologies have advanced hugely over the last couple of decades. Insulation provided by the best frames and sealed units is outstanding, capable of reaching the Passivhaus standards that support carbon-neutral homes. Yet millions of UK homeowners are living with existing double glazing that’s ‘adequate’ but nowhere near as effective as it could be. In short, it’s due an upgrade but this scheme won’t facilitate that.

The trouble with the Government’s thinking is that it ignores a fundamental aspect of human nature. When spending on our homes, we want to see, as well as feel, the benefit. I can’t help but think that there will be some reluctance to apply for vouchers to fund work that doesn’t offer improved kerb appeal alongside reduced bills. What’s more, the Government’s track record on such schemes isn’t the best. The Green Deal scheme had a low take-up rate as many homeowners simply didn’t trust it.

That’s one thing that this new scheme addresses as suppliers must have the TrustMark accreditation. All good stuff, but there are thousands of installers out there – highly skilled professionals at insulating homes for whom this scheme offers very little. In fact, this scheme, announced before the details were confirmed, hurt our industry. It delayed spending as homeowners waited to find out if they could get a grant towards their glazing.

There are opportunities for installers. Too many homes still have single glazing. Too many still have doors that aren’t energy efficient. But if there’s any funding left over for these upgrades it will be small scale. It’s not what the fenestration industry needs right now. The Government is aiming to kickstart construction while largely ignoring a big chunk of it.

It’s a shame that those who have fleshed out the details of this scheme don’t recognise the significant contribution the glazing industry can make to a zero-carbon future.