The industry has given a mixed reaction to the reintroduction of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF), which was originally launched in June and retracted a month later.
Set up to provide support for households installing measures to improve their energy efficiency, the GDHIF was withdrawn by government in July after applications exceeded expectation and the budget was quickly reached. Now, government is trying again with the scheme, with up to £30 million in vouchers available as of today.
John Thompson, chief executive officer of the Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC), welcomed the reappearance of the GDHIF. However, he made it clear that installers’ trust needs to be rebuilt after the incentive scheme’s first closure.
“For installers, particularly small businesses, the transient nature of the fund makes it difficult to depend on, and what we would like to see is greater emphasis put on consultation with sole traders and SMEs who can be left feeling uncertain when funds are so swiftly closed and revised,” he explained.
“When the GDHIF closed so rapidly in the summer, consumers were losing confidence in the advice given to them in the best interest from installers, and many installers began to lose confidence in government schemes such as the Green Deal. We feel greater communication and consultation between government and installers is needed to avoid this situation.”
Meanwhile, other members of industry felt that their respective sectors have not been properly represented in the GDHIF’s second phase. Members of the Manufacturers Association of Radiators and Convectors (MARC), for example, expressed disappointment that the cost savings afforded by replacing old radiators were ignored.
“Improved household energy efficiency could be achieved without having to do anything other than replace old steel panel radiators with new,” argued MARC’s chairman John Colling.
“When an option like this is available, making it possible for homeowners to make positive environmental improvements for less money and with less disruption to their homes and lives, it seems ill advised of those leading the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund to have ignored it.”
Similarly, trade body UKLPG has criticised the exclusion of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from the GDHIF’s list of eligible measures.
Rob Shuttleworth, chief executive of UKLPG, said: “We welcome the commitment of all political parties to energy efficiency and the eradication of fuel poverty. However, there is still misunderstanding around how these issues affect rural Britain. Indeed, off-grid heating policy continues to be misplaced, limiting consumer choice and failing to address the needs of off-grid households.
“The decision to exclude LPG-condensing boilers from the GDHIF is a missed opportunity to drive up household energy efficiency, cut energy bills and deliver significant environmental benefits to rural communities that don’t have access to the gas grid.”
A more positive response came from the Heating & Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC). The trade body warmly welcomed the scheme’s return and commended government “for continuing to support home energy efficiency measures”. HHIC director Roger Webb acknowledged the changes in the second roll-out of the scheme.
“We are pleased to see that some money has been allocated for measures other than solid wall insulation, which dominated earlier versions of the scheme,” he said. “The new scheme has ring-fenced £26 million for solid wall insulation, with £6 million for other measures, but we would of course like to see this increased in the next financial year.
“We know from experience that replacing an old, inefficient boiler will not only help reduce energy bills and carbon emissions, but also act as a catalyst to install other energy efficiency measures.”