Are you planning on making your house greener? Have you heard that there are Government grants to help you do this? It isn’t quite like that, as one homeowner discovered. This is what actually happened to one homeowner.
It was raining hard in this part of Kent, and the rain was coming through into my bedroom. A roofing contractor was required urgently. When he came down off his ladder, he explained that the decay on the roof of this elderly suburban house, built in 1910, was extensive, and repairs would require scaffolding.
I mentioned that we had been planning a loft conversion, and that maybe now was the time to get on with it. More research, and a read of the Feb issue of “Ethical Consumer”, revealed that it would also be timely to follow my best green aspirations and install solar thermal panels on the new roof, timely because up to £5,000 of the cost would be covered by a government grant.
This is part of the £2bn promised in 2020 to redirect British economic growth into green investments, such as making our poorly insulated housing more energy-efficient.
So I read up on the details of domestic solar energy. Photovoltaic panels are not supported under the grant scheme, but solar thermal panels are. These are the panels that send heated water into a new twin-coil cylinder. This is dual purpose, as it can still draw hot water from a gas boiler on cloudier days. There is even an official website where you can check if there are authorised installers near to your postcode.
Excitedly I logged on – but I got a message saying
NO INSTALLERS IN YOUR AREA
What? Not in the whole of Kent?
I Googled further and left messages with various likely firms. I was looking to be lucky, for I needed a contractor who could do the work before the end of the financial year, as there was no guarantee the grant would be renewed. Also, the scaffolding was already going up around my house for that major roof work.
No such luck. What I got instead was a disappointing phone call from a contractor in Canterbury who explained that most installers in the business were not undertaking any more work of this type because the government pay-out on these contracts was too slow, as described in this industry article.
Pay-outs have been so slow that most of the £2bn is being returned to the Treasury. ICS Consulting was hired by the government to disburse the grants. It is noteworthy that that their original company documents state their function is “Management consultancy activities other than financial management”.
Were they hired after due tender process? Their financial management of grant disbursement is now greatly criticised by the affected industry. Although they are a company registered in the USA, they have British directors and a London office, while their accounts are on public record.
Note that the Chancellor’s budget was totally silent on the green homes grant heralded with such grand hopes in the Autumn statement of 2020. So the Tory government is yet again dazzling the public with vain promises, and then when it comes to the details of delivery – confusion and disillusionment. My hopes of a “green roof”, resplendent with solar thermal panels, have collapsed.