Accessing the Green Homes Grant can be difficult for sole traders, but there are alternative routes to accessing it and good reasons for doing so, explain Tolu Omideyi and Daniel Dickinson.
* The Green Homes Grant scheme has been extended and will run until March 2022*
The Green Homes Grant (GHG), the government’s hotly anticipated £2 billion voucher scheme for retrofitting homes in England, is now live and underway. It’s hoped the scheme will help to retrofit over 600,000 homes with energy efficiency measures such as insulation and low carbon heating, supporting 100,000 jobs. This is potentially a game-changing opportunity for SMEs in the retrofit supply chain.
It’s not just the physical installation costs that are eligible for the grant. There are also real opportunities for companies involved in related enabling works, including:
- Professional services such as design and drawings, damp specialisation, structural engineering and air tightness testing
- Contractor costs, such as labour, materials, scaffolding and waste disposal
- Reasonable enabling works linked to the retrofit measures, such as required structural improvements to the building, treating damp, eliminating excessive infiltration and improving ventilation.
However, the scheme is currently set to run for just six months, ending in March 2021. To deliver eligible works, suppliers need to meet the PAS 2030 standard for the relevant energy efficiency measures. They also need to be registered under the TrustMark scheme, as well as the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) if delivering low carbon heating technologies.
For those not yet registered with TrustMark, it’s achievable within a relatively short timeframe providing you have the required documentation and evidence ready to go. However, the lead time for MCS – and TrustMark, if contractors don’t yet have the prerequisites in place – can take several weeks or even months. With all work under the GHG needing to be completed by the end of March, businesses not yet ready for certification won’t have time to make the most of the scheme directly.
Opportunities for sole traders
If you fit into this category as a sole trader or small contractor, fear not – this isn’t the end of the story. You can still deliver under the GHG as a subcontractor for a TrustMark or MCS certified supplier. The main contractor is accountable for the works, but they’re not restricted from subcontracting work to non-certified companies, provided they have sufficient oversight and verify that the work undertaken meets the required standard.
If the GHG is successful, there is also the potential for the government to extend it beyond March 2021, particularly for measures like external wall insulation where the installation is weather-dependent. So there is still an argument for sole traders and smaller contractors to begin the process for TrustMark and/or MCS certification now to get into the right position for any extension.
For more information on the different routes to access the GHG, our October webinar with guest speakers from The Retrofit Academy and the Insulation Assurance Authority (IAA) can be watched back here.
There are big changes around the corner
Possible extensions are not the only reason to begin the relevant certification process and put yourself in a strong position as a subcontractor. From March 2021, the new PAS 2035 standard comes into play, and we cannot stress enough how much this will change the retrofit market.
PAS 2035 aims to shift the market away from its tendency to deliver isolated one-off works, to a bespoke ‘whole house’ retrofit approach that will deliver a long-term retrofit plan for each property. The standard has been designed around the principle of ‘fabric first’ retrofit – prioritising measures that reduce heat demand before introducing new energy systems. A full dwelling assessment will be required and logged via TrustMark, so even if the occupants change, a long-term plan for the property remains in place.
We strongly recommend suppliers begin to prepare themselves now. As David Pierpoint, CEO of The Retrofit Academy pointed out in our webinar: around 27 million homes will need to be retrofitted to a whole house standard if the UK is to achieve its 2050 net-zero target. The opportunities are huge – delivering retrofit on this scale will require the equivalent job creation of three London Olympics per year, every year, between now and then.
How we can help
Our Green Technologies and Services team can help retrofit contractors make the most of the GHG and prepare for the changes ahead. This includes helping small contractors to connect with approved suppliers in Greater Manchester who are looking for subcontractors to deliver GHG projects.
Tolu Omideyi, Low Carbon Sector Advisor
Tolu is a Chartered Environmentalist with over seventeen years’ experience in Environmental Management and Sustainability and has recently joined the Business Growth Hub. She has a background working with manufacturing, marine, public and third sector.
Tolu specialises in supporting SMEs around policy drivers that affect the market, business planning and raising clients' company profile. Tolu holds an MSc in Environmental Strategy.