UK green homes scheme labelled a failure by committee

The scheme ran for a fraction of the time it was meant to, and may have done more damage than good in the long run.

UK green homes scheme labelled a failure by committee

A green homes grant scheme from the government has been a “slam dunk fail”, according to the public accounts committee (PAC). Only 47,500 homes out of the originally planned 600,000 were upgraded through the scheme, and it also failed to deliver on providing more jobs.

The scheme was meant to provide grants to financially support the public in making their homes more energy efficient, moving away from heating powered by fossil fuels and investing in solar power and more. Boris Johnson had lauded the scheme as a key part of his proposed green industrial revolution, but PAC has criticised it as underperforming and even risking future efforts to reach net zero. 20% of the UK’s CO2 emissions come from domestic carbon emissions which many say is something that must be handled properly in order to reach net zero by 2050.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed the scheme in 2020, and awarded the contract for running it to American corporation ICF. Renewable energy businesses have said that the way that the grants were awarded was chaotic and inefficient and resulted in long delays for both the public and businesses.

There was originally a £1.5 billion budget allotted to funding the scheme, but the total spend before the scheme was abruptly scrapped in March of this year was only around £314 million. Of that amount, 16% (£50m) had been spent on administration – more than £1000 per each house upgraded.

Chair of the public accounts committee, Dame Meg Hillier, said: “It cost the taxpayer £50m just to administer the pointlessly rushed through Green Homes Grant scheme, which delivered a small fraction of its objectives, either in environmental benefits or the promised new jobs.

“We heard it can take 48 months – four years – to train the specialists required to implement key parts of a scheme that was dreamed up to be rolled out in 12 weeks. It was never going to work at this time, in this way, and that should have been blindingly obvious to the department. That it was not is a serious worry, I am afraid there is no escaping the conclusion that this scheme was a slam dunk fail.”

The committee also accused BEIS of not fully acknowledging the extent of the failings within the scheme, and in particular has highlighted the contracting of ICF as one of those failings. Other companies had asserted that 15 weeks were needed to fully implement a working system for administering grants. However, ICF claimed to be able to create one in 6 weeks but was not asked by BEIS how exactly they were going to be able to complete work in that short a time frame.

As a result, ICF launched the scheme without a fully developed and tested IT platform, therefore struggling to implement the digital voucher application system, which led to delays as applications had to be processed manually instead. The scheme was also meant to provide new jobs, but the report found it may in fact have led to redundancies in many cases due to its abrupt axing and poor design.

The report also says that confidence in the government’s ability to improve energy efficiency has been damaged by the scheme’s failure, with the government treating domestic heating as a “fragmented, stop-go activity”.

Hillier acknowledged the need to overhaul the energy efficiency of homes within the UK and to make massive changes in the way we heat our homes but said that “the way this was devised and run was just a terrible waste of money and opportunity at a time when we can least afford it.” 

Header Image Credit: Tiia Monto

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Dulcie Geist

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Dulcie Geist is a Fine Art graduate, originally from Cardiff, now residing in Glasgow. They love Welsh culture, queer culture, pop culture, and lack of culture. They have a passion for the arts and an even deeper passion for anything that makes the arts more accessible (and frankly, more fun).

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