Why it's time to overhaul the Great British Insulation Scheme

That there is a great need for us to insulate our homes amid high energy costs is indisputable.A recent survey by energy provider EDF in partnership with property data platform Sprift, analysed the current levels of home insulation in Britain and found that 55 per cent of properties in England and Wales only meet the insulation standards of 1976 Building Regulations or earlier.

These homes lose heat through inadequate wall cavity insulation, lack of double glazing, insufficient loft insulation and poor floor insulation.

Meanwhile, the Government’s attempt to help those in the least energy efficient homes has had mixed reviews.

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It has insisted that energy providers help fund the work needed but they in turn recoup the cost via us, their bill payers.

Time to overhaul the Great British Insulation SchemeTime to overhaul the Great British Insulation Scheme
Time to overhaul the Great British Insulation Scheme

One ongoing scheme is the Energy Company Obligation, now in its fourth iteration known as ECO4, which is only available to those on a low income.

It can include new boilers, heat pumps, solar panels and insulation among other free improvements.

To qualify, someone living in the property must be in receipt of a qualifying benefit, i.e. pension credit or universal credit etc., or the combined household income should be £31,000 or less and you are vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home.

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Your home must also have an energy performance certificate rating of D or below or E or below if renting.

You can apply if you own your own home or, in some cases, if you rent.

If you think you are eligible the best way to find out is to call your energy provider.

The government’s Great British Insulation Scheme, aka GBIS, is open to more households but has been criticised for being underfunded.

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You can only get one type of insulation installed for free, cavity, wall or loft and to be eligible for the GBIS you must own your own home or rent it and it must be in council tax band A to D.

Energy provider EDF says: “We are supportive of the principle of the GBIS scheme but there are flaws in it. If insulation installations continue at the current rate, it will take 60 years for the government to meet its three-year target to help around 300,000 households have a warmer, more energy efficient home.”

A big factor in this, say EDF, is that the Government has costed the scheme out lower than it is to implement.

A spokesman says: “We have completed the majority of installations to date amongst all suppliers at a cost which is £10m more than we can recover.

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“This is not sustainable and we have had to turn down the majority of requests because they cannot be delivered within the cost parameters of the scheme.

“This means that most installations are cavity wall insulation as, under the current scheme, other insulation solutions such as loft, are proving to be financially unviable”

He adds: “We have installed solid wall and loft insulation but a lot of the funding for those would have been paid for by homeowners.”

While criticising the system, EDF has also put forward solutions. It suggests that the government allow more than one installation under GBIS.

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Currently only one installation per home is allowed and, as an up to date EPC rating is also required from the retrofit co-ordinator at a cost of around £400 it can be hard to see it as financially viable.

Combining multiple measures would also increase the value of the work and reduce the property’s carbon footprint.

EDF also wants GBIS expanded to houses in council tax band E and says: “We understand the Government was keen to exclude houses from E and upwards as they think that the inhabitants would not need financial assistance.

“However, the current Council Tax A to D scheme eligibility criteria captures around 80 per cent of all homes in England but the reality is that based on the scheme impact assessment, only around 13 per cent of these homes require measures that can be delivered within the cost parameters of the scheme.”

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It argues that extending the scheme’s eligibility criteria to include Council Tax E homes in England would bring in an additional 2.4 million homes representing an additional 10 per cent of all homes in England.

It also wants to see heat control measures included in GBIS for all not just the low income group.These include timers, thermostats and plumbing and electronic components, to manage temperature and when heating should be on.

They are cost effective to install and can result in bill and usage reduction. For GBIS eligibility visit www.gov.uk/apply-great-british-insulation-scheme