Here I share my experience of applying for grants and loans for energy efficiency and installing renewables at home.
In this time of worrisome increases in energy prices, I thought a blog on my experience of installing measures at my home would be helpful. Apologies, as this blog is focused on the UK, and most of this advice only applies to those fortunate enough to own their home.
I decided that I would go green and stop burning gas all together. I would replace my gas central heating with an air sourced heat pump. I would also install underfloor insulation, solar panels on my south facing roof and a battery to store the excess solar energy generated during the day so that I could use it in the evenings.
Please bear in mind that if you install an air source heat pump to replace natural gas without other measures then your energy bills will go up. Although a heat pump is around 3 times more efficient than natural gas, a heat pump uses electricity which is around 3.5 times more expensive than gas (in the UK).
What is available in Scotland?
Home Energy Scotland offer interest free loans for energy efficiency and installing home renewables. Some are accompanied by ‘cashback’ which is a form of grant linked to the loan. You can see further details if you follow this link.
There is a confusing mix of loans and cashback for energy efficiency measures that can include solid wall insulation, double glazing, cavity wall insulation and insulated doors. In combination, the maximum you can claim is £15,000 – a £9,000 loan plus £6,000 cashback.
For installing home renewables there are loans for solar pv (£5,000) and for battery storage (£6,000). You can claim up to £7,500 cashback and a £2,500 loan to install a heat pump. There are further categories, with more information on the website.
There is an administration fee of 1.5%, capped at £150, and you pay back the loan over 5 to 12 years. The funding is not guaranteed, it is provided on a first come first served basis each financial year.
Energy Savings Trust
Their website provides advice on energy efficiency and installing renewables at home. If you receive benefits and live in England, Scotland or Wales you can contact your energy supplier who may be able to install ECO (Energy Company Obligation) energy efficiency measures free of charge.
Like Scotland, Wales also has a scheme to support homeowners – see the Energy Savings Trust website.
Other than for those receiving state benefits, I couldn’t find any grants or loans available to homeowners in England to improve the energy efficiency of their home. Isn’t this incredible given the current energy crisis?
Boiler Upgrade Scheme (England and Wales)
The Boiler Upgrade Scheme is the flagship policy to encourage uptake of heat pumps. It is a grant of £5,000 available to homeowners and private landlords (£6,000 for a ground source heat pump). Although this is less than the £7,500 available in Scotland, the scheme does have major advantages. Importantly the installer applies for the grant on behalf of the householder and then discounts this from your bill. This takes away much of the hassle for the homeowner.
Grants are also available for biomass, but only in rural areas off the gas grid.
I’d like to tell you that it is all straightforward, but it is not. It takes longer than it should and requires perseverance. I contacted Home Energy Scotland and got straight through to an advisor who told me I was eligible for energy efficiency measures. I then needed to arrange an on-line appointment with a home renewables advisor to prepare a report that I will need when I apply for a loan.
I then contacted six installers by email (there is an approved installers list on the website). Two didn’t even respond. There then followed a mixture of telephone appointments, me sending them photographs and site visits to our house. My case was slightly complicated as I wanted insulation, solar, a battery and heat pump. Some suppliers only wanted to provide me with one or two elements. In my view it is much easier to work with one supplier, even if they then sub-contract some work. Also, all the prices quoted were higher than I had anticipated.
I chose a supplier, Green Home Systems. I then applied for the loan from Home Energy Scotland. This process took a long frustrating time during which I couldn’t sign a contract with my chosen installer. Not surprisingly, my installer didn’t want to order the materials until I had signed a contract with them. More delays.
At present my loan is approved and I am waiting for an installation date.
Conclusions, and the way forward
Given rapidly rising energy prices it is worth persevering. Installing solar panels used to have a long payback period, but this has now been slashed (if electricity prices rise 3 times, then payback falls from say 12 years to 4 years).
There is an opportunity for the installers to provide a full package of measures or partner with other companies to provide a full service to the homeowner.
It requires motivation and is time consuming to specify what you want, obtain satisfactory quotes and claim a loan or grant. The entire process is very inefficient for both the homeowner and installer particularly when quotes and installation is carried out one by one for individual homeowners.
I would therefore recommend the Government(s) introduce the following:
- A subsidised service to help the homeowner to clearly specify their needs (including heat loss calculations) – a one stop shop
- Area-based schemes, where a trusted body, perhaps working with the local community, works with installers to offer the homeowner a package of measures
- Grants should be administered by the installer on the homeowner’s behalf.
I will cover the installation, outcome and benefits of the measures I am installing in a future blog.
You might also enjoy my book, Carbon Choices on the common-sense solutions to our climate and nature crises. Available direct from me or http://www.carbonchoices.uk/index.php/buy. I am donating one third of profits to rewilding projects.
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