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Vaillant says there is more to be done beyond Green Homes Grant to support low carbon heating

This week (4th of August 2020) the Government provided further detail on the £2 billion Green Homes Grant to improve energy efficiency of homes and stimulate the economy after lockdown. Mark Wilkins, head of training and external affairs at Vaillant, comments.

“We welcome the Government’s announcement on the details of the £2 billion Green Homes Grant (GHG) and are heartened by the inclusion of air and ground source heat pumps as part of the available measures.

“Although it is already possible to claim annual payments for installing a heat pump with the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the initial outlay of purchasing the equipment has always been a barrier to entry within the heat pump market. With the new GHG, homeowners in England will be able to claim vouchers of up to £5,000 towards the cost of fitting a new heat pump, including parts and labour. Households on low income can receive vouchers covering 100% of the cost of the improvements, up to a maximum of £10,000.

“What’s more, these beneficiaries will also be able to apply for RHI funding giving them annual payments over a period of seven years. The only caveat is that the cost of the GHG will be deducted from this, reducing the total RHI amount that households can claim.

“Despite these positives, we are disappointed that the grant does not cover the installation of energy efficient condensing boilers. While growing the heat pump market is essential to decarbonising heat, many homes still have standard efficiency boilers; replacing these could have been a quick win solution for both climate and economic recovery.

“The Government may have also missed a trick by not including hot water cylinders in the scheme; systems with a heat pump and/or solar thermal require an appropriately sized cylinder to meet hot water demand. This may discourage homeowners from having a low carbon system fitted and cause difficulties for installers when quoting and receiving payment for jobs.

“What also remains to be seen is whether this funding alone will be able to support the installation of a significant number heat pumps to make progress towards the UK’s net zero target.

“A rise in demand needs to be matched by an increase in the number of installers with the right skills to design and install low carbon heating solutions to a high standard. The Government needs to do more to encourage people to upskill and support the training initiatives undertaken by Vaillant and others in the industry. Otherwise, the ability to roll out heat pumps and other low-carbon heating technologies in sufficient quantities will be limited by the shortage of designers and installers on the ground.”

“As the GHG scheme is only valid until March 2021, we would question whether there is enough time for this to happen. To fit heat pumps using the GHG, installers must be MCS accredited and the process of gaining accreditation can take several months.

“Nevertheless, we’ve always advocated improvements to the fabric of our buildings to minimise the amount of heat needed in the first place, whatever heating system is employed. Therefore, it is encouraging to see insulation and other measures included in the scheme. Once energy demand is reduced through good insulation, we are confident that heat pumps can provide a low carbon and cost effective solution across many different applications.

“Overall, the GHG is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. Decarbonising heat is a monumental task and without enough skilled professionals in the workforce, six months is not enough time to make significant progress. We need clarity on long-term funding and training schemes to develop a sustainable heat pump industry and build consumer confidence.”