In a speech scheduled for tomorrow (8 July) on his plans to boost the UK economy following the coronavirus pandemic, Sunak will say homeowners in England can claim vouchers of up to £5,000 to be spent on energy-saving improvements.
Under the scheme the government will pay at least two-thirds of the cost of any energy-saving retrofit work, including installation of insulation and double-glazed windows.
The £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme is expected to run for one year, with homeowners claiming the vouchers once they have a quote for the work and the work has been approved.
Sunak will also set out plans to spend £1 billion improving energy efficiency in public buildings such as schools and hospitals, as well as introduce a £50 million pilot scheme for innovative approaches to large-scale retrofitting of social housing.
The funding is less than the £9.2 billion the Conservative Party promised to spend on improving energy efficiency in homes, school and hospitals in its manifesto but comes only seven months into the party’s five-year term.
The announcement follows the government’s response to the AJ’s RetroFirst campaign, which calls for changes to VAT, planning and procurement rules to promote retrofitting and bring down the UK’s carbon emissions through greater energy efficiency and reduced use of new and carbon-intensive materials.
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said improving the energy efficiency of buildings is crucial for reducing emissions and described the new government funding as a ‘welcome first step’.
But she said: ‘This funding needs to be part of a comprehensive plan to improve the whole of the UK’s building stock, creating tens of thousands of jobs for the long term, not here today, gone tomorrow.
‘That will only happen if policies are put in place that will build business confidence, upskill tradespeople and grow capacity in the retrofit market.’
She added: ‘Government must also set about creating long-term consumer demand for green home upgrades, bringing forward a range of attractive financing options and incentives such as variable stamp duty to make greener homes cheaper to buy.’
Alan Jones, president of the RIBA, said it was ‘good to see the government bring forward a significant proportion of the £9.2 billion pledged for energy efficiency’, adding: ‘We will continue to emphasise to policymakers the leading role chartered architects have in designing, co-ordinating and delivering a sustainable built environment.’
Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, agreed with Hirigoyen that the government’s announcement was ‘not a comprehensive plan’.
He said: ‘It appears there is almost nothing for the people who rent the 8.5 million homes in the social rented sector and private rented sector, which has the worst energy efficiency standards. That means one third of people are left out.’
He added: ‘It also needs to be part of a much broader and bigger-scale strategy for getting back on track for net zero which includes a zero-carbon army of young people getting back to work, investment in nature conservation, driving forward renewable energy, helping our manufacturers be part of the green transition and a plan for our transport network.’