Making homes greener in a time of change

We’ve all spent a lot more time in our homes over the last year. Ongoing restrictions have led to higher energy bills for most of us, particularly over the winter. This has likely to increased our appetite for energy efficiency measures.

In October, the UK government launched the Green Homes Grant Scheme (GHGS). This is part of a wider Green Industrial Revolution - a ten-point plan that the Prime Minister hopes will create and support up to 250,000 jobs.

GHGS is intended to help up to 600,000 households introduce measures to increase energy efficiency and to reduce energy poverty. It provides two-thirds-funding for insulation, double or triple-glazing, and low-carbon heating like heat pumps, up to a limit of £5,000 - with more available for low-income households.

The scheme is complex and some homeowners have found it hard to find a local supplier. Although it was originally set to run for just six months, the scheme has been extended to March 2022 and this should help with take-up.

A difficult history

Of course, energy efficiency is not a new goal; the predecessor of the GHGS was the ‘Green Deal’. Although the Green Deal itself was well-intentioned, there were problems in practice including the poor-quality delivery of energy efficiency measures, coupled with a lack of specialized knowledge on the part of suppliers. Some residents were left with unacceptable levels of damp, a build-up of black mold, orcavity wall insulation that simply didn’t do the job.

Homeowners will only be willing to make major changes to their homes if they are confident that the work will be carried out to a high standard by reputable companies. They also need proper consumer protection.

For the last five years, the retrofit industry has been addressing the problems of skills shortages, low standards, and damaged trust.

Working together

The industry has been working closely with government to raise standards of energy retrofit delivery. BSI has developed and published new whole-house retrofit standards PAS 2035/2030:2019.

The government has introduced a new quality and consumer protection regime into the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. This is part of aprocess begun under the independent ‘Each Home Counts’ review, which recommended the introduction of a new, comprehensive quality mark for the retrofitting of energy efficiency measures. It is also being applied to the GHGS.

TrustMark is the government-endorsed scheme for work on a consumer’s home. Its remit has been expanded to include all Repair, Maintenance and Improvement (RMI), Energy Efficiency and Retrofit measures.

To be eligible, measures will have to be completed by TrustMark registered businesses certified to and following the new and improved standards.

Households having measures installed by TrustMark registered businesses will receive an improved, more comprehensive service, including the greater provision of warranties. Compliant retrofit jobs are now lodged in Trustmark’s data warehouse.

A time of transition

However, the industry is in transition. Companiesare still in the process of being certified and employees in the process of being qualified. Energy Assessor and Retrofit Co-ordinator training providers have been creating courses to increase skills in the workforce. This work is ongoing.

The rules for the GHGS have been written to accommodate these transitional circumstances and the industry is working hard to catch up. BSI agreed on the transitional arrangements with BEIS, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, and UKAS, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service. PAS 2035/2030:2019 isusable now but PAS 2030:2017 can continue to be used until mid-2021 when it will be withdrawn and PAS 2035/2030:2019 is fully implemented.

Championing higher standards

The key outcome is that whenever a homeowner appoints a Trustmark-registered business to help them save energy, they can be confident that the work will be completed to the required standards.