The premature ending of the Green Homes Grant (GHG) shouldn’t have been a huge surprise - it fits with a long history of stop-start of government funding that we have all had to deal with. But for many housing providers it wasn’t even a consideration in their long-term plans to deliver Band C and zero carbon homes. They have bigger, better and critically their own plans that will meet the needs of their businesses, their customers and the environment.
So what does the approach of the clued up housing providers tell us about funding and finance and its role in delivering low carbon homes?
To help us do this, let’s set the scene around funding and government policy more widely. The Green Homes Grant was launched with a big fanfare as part of the ‘build back better’ plans after the pandemic that would not only deliver a green future, but also deliver employment and other opportunities. It quickly became apparent that the scheme was poorly thought out, poorly administered and woefully short term. The result was missed targets for deployment and the supply chain actually having to cut jobs.
For many of us, stop-start funding has become the canary in the coal mine of government zero carbon policy: incoherent, inconsistent and short term. Again and again, housing and the supply chain has asked government for one thing – consistent policy and consistent funding. It doesn’t have to be funky and sexy. It needs to get the job done. Time and again government launches new schemes that promote particular technologies or approaches - but that’s the subject for another day...
For many housing providers, the ending of GHG didn’t even register. The smart ones already have their own Band C and zero carbon strategy in place, and it’s not one that is based on the short-term availability of any government funding. For the housing providers who have planned for the long-term and already have or are putting their strategy in place, the stop-start funding doesn’t matter. They have bigger fish to fry - they know funding has to work for them. They have a strategy that doesn’t chase funding unless it supports the strategy
This is not universal, but we do see decreasing numbers in the sector chasing every new bit of funding. I understand the temptation of CEOs and Boards to chase funding – who turns down free money, right? But more often its driven by FOMO not strategy. Chasing short-term funding causes organisational chaos as teams run around putting together bids and changing investment strategies that really don’t deliver. Meanwhile they are not delivering the strategy that works for their business and customers.
Let me be clear: funding is important. Let me rephrase that - finance is important. Government funding will not even touch the sides of what is needed for zero carbon. What we need is finance and investment. That’s why we are working with others in the sector and the Energy Systems Catapult to build those new sources of finance and investment. But this will take time. So how do we square the need for funding now without chasing funding that isn’t working for the sector?
There is one source of funding that is managing to do this but which many in the sector are missing out on. That funding is the energy company obligation, most often called simply ‘Eco’. It is funding that consistently delivers the intelligent, no-regrets measures that really will help deliver both Band C and zero carbon. The smart ones in the sector are maxing out efforts to secure this unglamorous, unsexy funding that simply and quietly gets on with the job. Gone are the days when this funding over promised and underdelivered. Many – including this author - spent abortive time and resources making our asset management strategies fit what the energy companies wanted.
This has changed and we are hearing of many in the sector finding it is fitting around their strategies. And not only does it deliver measures – and free surveys - it also delivers valuable data for the sector as a new Energy Performance Certificate is completed post-works for free too.
So to answer the question we started with - what are the smart ones in the sector doing? In three simple steps they are taking control of Band C and zero carbon, putting in place their strategy and securing the funding that works for them and their customers.
Nicholas Doyle, director, Adecoe