Green Tech and Services advisor Thalia Czarkowska takes a look at how SME installers of energy efficiency measures can secure eligibility for the government’s £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme.
* The Green Homes Grant voucher scheme closed to new applications on 31 March 2021*
If we travel back in time to five years ago, David Cameron’s government would have just announced the closure of its flagship pay-as-you-save Green Deal scheme. The initiative offered households a government-backed loan for installing eligible energy efficiency measures, which would be paid back through their resulting energy savings. To secure a place in the supply chain, companies had to hold the right certifications to become either an approved ‘Green Deal Assessor’ to assess properties for improvements, or an approved ‘Green Deal Installer’ to install improvements under the scheme.
Unfortunately, the Green Deal never really hit the heights expected of it, but after five years’ wait we finally have a successor in place: the Green Homes Grant.
What is the Green Homes Grant?
Announced as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs to aid the recovery from COVID-19, the £2 billion Green Homes Grant will offer homeowners, including owner occupiers and landlords, vouchers of up to £5,000 to cover up to two thirds of the cost of a range of energy saving technologies.
Eligible measures are split into ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ categories. Households will need to install at least one of the following primary measures to qualify for funding:
- Insulation: Solid wall, cavity wall, under-floor, loft, flat roof, room in roof or park home
- Low carbon heat: Air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps or solar thermal.
As long as there is at least one primary measure being installed, households will also be eligible for secondary measures:
- Draught proofing
- Windows and doors: Double/triple glazing or secondary glazing (where replacing single glazing), or energy efficiency doors (where replacing doors installed prior to 2002)
- Heating controls and insulation: Appliance thermostats, hot water tank thermostats, hot water tank insulation, smart heating controls, zone controls, delayed start thermostats, or thermostatic radiator valves.
In addition, households on low incomes will also be eligible for vouchers covering 100 per cent of the cost of the improvements, up to a maximum of £10,000.
Owner occupiers, private landlords and social housing landlords are all eligible for the general scheme, but only owner-occupied properties are eligible for the low income scheme.
How will it work?
The government hopes the Green Homes Grant will help to retrofit over 600,000 homes and support over 100,000 jobs between September 2020 and March 2021 and have extended the scheme up until March 2022 to allow maximum participation.
£500 million of the £2 billion budget will be administered specifically by local authorities, who will bid directly for funding to support low income households in their area living in the least energy efficient homes (those rated E, F or G).
Homeowners wanting to access the remaining £1.5 billion and advice for improving the energy efficiency of their homes will be directed to the government-endorsed Simple Energy Advice (SEA) service. The SEA will suggest appropriate improvements that homeowners may be able to apply for support in funding.
Once the Green Homes Grant is up and running, households will be offered a list of approved tradespeople in their local area to carry out the work. The householder will be able to choose their installer, but only approved and accredited installers will be able to be commissioned under the scheme. Vouchers will be issued once the works are agreed.
How can suppliers get on the list?
To take part in the scheme, installers of eligible technologies must meet Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2030 standard and be registered with TrustMark or the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).
TrustMark is the prerequisite accreditation, but installers of low carbon heating technologies (heat pumps or solar thermal) will also need to be certified through the MCS for the relevant technology.
Some companies in the sector will be familiar with these certifications. TrustMark is already a requirement for companies delivering energy efficiency measures under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, while MCS accreditation is required for installing renewable energy technologies under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) schemes.
To register with TradeMark, companies must select one of 40 approved trade associations or certification bodies (‘Scheme Providers’) to support their application. Not all of Scheme Providers cover the same trades, so companies may have to be a member of more than one depending on the technologies they will be installing.
Registration can take as little as five working days for those who are already members of a recognised Scheme Provider or are already certified under the MCS. For those who are not yet members of a recognised scheme, registration can take to 2-3 weeks. The costs of registration will differ depending on the Scheme Provider, but in most cases will be small.
Microgeneration Certification Scheme
Gaining accreditation to MCS to secure eligibility for installing low carbon heat measures is a more complex process. Installers are assessed against the technical standard for the specific technology they wish to become certified for. There are seven approved certification bodies, each of whom have different prices and timescales for assessment, which can be up to 12 weeks. Certification costs are considerably higher than for TrustMark and include a non-refundable application fee, MCS license fee and annual registration fee per technology you wish to install.
Prior to completing an MCS assessment, installers also need to join the relevant Trading Standards Institute approved consumer code, which for renewable heating technologies is the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC). They also must demonstrate competency through existing qualifications held, portfolio of work completed or courses attended, and must operate a Quality Management System.
Given the time and costs involved, companies without MCS accreditation at this stage will need to decide whether they will have enough time to exploit the Green Homes Grant and recoup their outlay while the scheme lasts.
How we can help
We are providing support and advice to help Greater Manchester SMEs secure a place on the approved installer list. We are also working closely with our wider stakeholders to maximise the role the local supply chain can play in delivering the grant.
For more information, get in touch with an advisor today and join our Low Carbon Network to keep up with the latest updates.
Thalia Czarkowska, Low Carbon Sector Trainee Advisor
Thalia joined the Green Growth team in March 2017 after graduating from the University of Manchester with a BSc in Environmental Management. Her role of trainee Green Tech advisor has a variety of aspects, including market research and raising the profile of Green Technology sector companies. Thalia also manages the team's digital content and light-touch services including Green Intelligence and Low Carbon Network.