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Kate Meakin and Richard Watson of Energise Sussex Coast offering energy advice (photo: ESC).

Get geared up for a government green grant!

If you’re interested in getting a grant from the government’s green fund to improve your home’s energy efficiency, what’s the best way of going about it? While we wait for more details from the government, Richard Watson of Energise Sussex Coast has some good advice to offer.

My advice to every homeowner is to download a copy of their Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This rates the energy efficiency of their property from A to G and you can find it online.

If you have lived in the same house for over 10 years, the chances are you have never had an EPC, so it is worth getting one done. It costs around £40, but at ESC we are looking at negotiating a bulk rate from local assessors, so you may want to contact us.

The energy efficiency rating tells you how energy efficient your home is and how much better it could potentially perform (image: Wikimedia).

Of the 41,643 homes in Hastings with EPCs, 18,529 are owner-occupied. So that’s a lot of homes that might be able to access the grant. The eligibility details aren’t available yet, but as the UK wants to get all homes to EPC C rating by 2030 ( E by 2020, D by 2025), the grant is most likely to go to homes that are rated D and below. In Hastings 41% of homes are D rated and 21% are E, F and G. So that’s  a lot of homes that could qualify – and will eventually have to improve their rating.

Calculating whether your home is in fuel poverty is not so easy in England. We used to use the 10% rule which is still used in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which means if you spend more than 10% of your annual income on energy you are technically in energy poverty.

Now England uses the more complex “low income, high cost” calculation. Basically if the household income, adjusted after tax, housing and energy costs, is below the poverty line – 60% of the median UK income level – then you qualify as energy poor. There’s a simple (10% calculator) here that takes less than a minute  and a more complicated one here which you have to download.

Other support schemes

As well as the grants now on offer, there is an additional £2.5 billion available to vulnerable homes through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), the Warm Home Discount and Winter Fuel payments. Amazingly, only 15% of this money goes to energy poor homes. You would think that anyone on benefits would be fuel poor, but in fact only 47% of fuel poor homes are in receipt of benefits.

So the challenge is not just to get more households accessing this new grant, but to get them accessing the existing grants and support schemes already out there. Hastings Council can play a big role here, as they can select energy poor homes, using their own criteria, for the energy companies which have £670 million of ECO funding to spend on making homes energy efficient.

The Warm Home service, which has spent around £1.5 million over three years, carries out 600 warm home checks a year across East Sussex – so when you bear in mind there are over 5,600 energy poor homes in Hastings alone you realise the scale of the problem.

Need to step up

As a community we need to figure out what to do and dramatically step up. We can’t expect government and local authorities to do it for us, not in the current financial crisis they are in, and not when no one knows which homes are really struggling with energy bills.

Another big issue is that the focus on switching supplier to save money and moving to gas heating or boiler replacement does not directly deliver carbon savings. And while electric heat from renewable sources provides carbon savings, it is costly for consumers, especially while policy costs are loaded onto electricity rather than gas bills.

There’s still  not enough ECO support or innovative finance mechanisms out there to encourage us to save money and go green.  And not enough volunteer resources. So with a windfall grant like the one now on offer, we should jump on it, especially as only 650,000 homes will benefit in England.

If you want a full energy and carbon audit of your home, one that lists all the actions you can take and their costs and outcomes, then there is a scheme called Warmer Sussex run by Retrofitworks. The audit would normally cost £150 but it is being subsidised by the government and for a limited period only costs £75.

 

For information on the green funds, see Hastings well qualified to bid for government green grants.

Posted 17:06 Sunday, Jul 19, 2020 In: Energy

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