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  Posted by: electime      9th July 2020

Paul Simpson, Commercial Director at Recticel Insulation, has given a cautious welcome to the impending government announcement that hundreds of thousands of homeowners will receive significant subsidies for energy-saving home improvements.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to confirm in his summer statement today (Wednesday) that vouchers of up to £10,000 will be provided for projects in England such as insulation, as part of a £2bn Green Homes Grant.

The scheme, which launches in September, is included in a wider £3bn plan to cut carbon emissions and could help to support more than 100,000 jobs.

Mr Simpson, who is also an executive committee member of the National Home Improvement Council (NHIC), said whilst he generally approved of the government’s initiative, it fell short of delivering a comprehensive solution for the country’s energy-deficient housing stock. “It’s a great step, but unfortunately it doesn’t tackle the issue of new homes being built to old regulations,” he said. “Far too many properties are being constructed in line with regulations that were in force when planning was permitted. It means new houses are being built to 2006 8thenergy standards, rather than what’s in force in 2020. These houses then need to be refurbished almost immediately.”

Under the Green Homes Grant, it’s reported that home owners could receive up to £5,000 in grants whilst the country’s poorest households could receive up to £10,000. The grant would go towards energy improvements, such as insulation and double glazing. By taking advantage of the funding scheme, the government said homeowners will save an estimated £600 annually on energy bills.

The grant appears not to apply to residents in privately-rented properties. An issue Mr Simpson said needs addressing if the scheme is to be truly inclusive. “Energy regulations are harder to enforce in privately-rented properties,” he said. “I’m concerned, therefore, that if this sector is not covered under the Green Homes Grant, the less wealthy members of our society will continue to live in poorly-insulated homes. This could impact their physical, as well as financial health.”

It’s estimated that poorly-insulated homes account for one-third of the country’s carbon emissions, due to the additional heating needed to offset draughts. The statistic was highlighted as part of a 2017 Green Building Report, which stated 25 million existing UK homes would fail to meet the insulation standards required by mid-century.

In 2019, the UK government became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. The target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by that time, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels.

Mr Simpson said: “I don’t want to be seen to be too critical of the government in relation to the Green Homes Grant. Ultimately, it’s another heroic attempt to address the thermal performance of the country’s housing stock and improve the environment by reducing emissions. But I’d like to see it include privately-rented properties to encourage landlords to make their buildings more comfortable for those less fortunate in the community, whilst legislation could be introduced to allow housebuilders a six-month window – starting from the date planning permission is granted – to ensure properties are built to current regulations. This will help draw a line in the sand, and leave developers in no doubt as to the regulations they should be building to.

“Therefore, whilst this scheme is commendable, I fear it only address the tip of the iceberg in terms of the country’s underperforming housing stock”