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How does the Green Homes Grant scheme affect the UK electrical industry?

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As part of the UK Government’s economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that homeowners will be able to receive vouchers towards making their homes more energy efficient. 

Dubbed the Green Homes Grant, the scheme is set to be launched in September 2020, and will provide homeowners vouchers worth up to £5,000 towards the cost of energy efficiency upgrades. These upgrades include everything from better insulation, the move from single to double or even triple glazing, and the installation of more energy-efficient lighting. 

What is covered by the Green Homes Grant?

Details regarding the Green Homes Grant scheme are currently scant, although the Government has confirmed that the following will be covered: 

  • Loft and floor insulation
  • New, more efficient boilers
  • Heat pumps
  • Energy-efficient lighting
  • Double or triple glazed windows
  • Energy-efficient doors

The one that the electrical industry will benefit most from is demand for energy-efficient lighting. 

Lighting is said to account for as much as 17% of a typical household’s electricity bill, so a simple upgrade to more energy efficient lighting has huge potential savings for households. It’s also one of the cheaper options offered under the Government’s Green Homes Grant. 

While the price of a new energy-efficient boiler or external wall insulation can run into the thousands of pounds, an upgrade to more efficient lighting, such as LEDs, could cost a fraction of that. With the Government offering to pick up two thirds of that cost for all households, and 100% of the cost for the poorest of households, it’s a great value option to see an immediate cut to electric bills. 

If the Government wants to reach its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, the installation of energy efficient lighting will have one of the greatest impacts. It’s also something that can have extra benefits on top of just reducing energy bills, as highlighted by Lutron on how lighting design can change a home’s environment

Why has the Green Homes Grant scheme been announced?

The Green Homes Grant scheme is a key Government policy in accelerating the green revolution in the UK. As the UK heads towards its net zero emissions goal by 2050, the country realises the importance of upgrading buildings to be more energy efficient – which is why the Government is stumping up cash to help homeowners make essential upgrades. 

Of course, the Government is also hoping that the Green Homes Grant scheme will also spur a new generation of jobs in the sectors that will receive the cash. This obviously includes those installing insulation and new boilers, although the electrical sector should also see an influx of funding thanks to the scheme. 

How exactly does the electrical sector benefit?

The Green Homes Grant scheme will allow homeowners to obtain a voucher towards the cost of energy efficiency improvements. They can do this by making an online application for the type of upgrade they want to make, which will then recommend accredited local suppliers to complete the work. 

The vouchers will pay for two-thirds of the cost of the energy efficiency upgrades, up to a maximum of £5,000 for most people. Those in the poorest households will get 100% of the cost covered by the Government, up to a maximum of £10,000. 

The vouchers will go directly to the companies providing the work, although the Government hasn’t confirmed how long it will take for firms to be paid. There have previously been issues in the Government paying out grants on time, especially in regards to EV charging installations – with many firms complaining about severe delays in receiving payment from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles. 

How has the lighting industry reacted to the Green Homes Grant scheme?

Electrical Review reached out to leading lighting firms to figure out what they thought of the Government’s Green Homes Grant Scheme, and whether they believe it goes far enough. 

Nate Hagemeier, senior director of Sales Europe & Africa at Lutron, noted, “Tackling energy waste must be central to any green building investment plan. It is simply not acceptable to continue on our current course, where large amounts of the energy used in our homes and commercial buildings is wasted. 

“We hope the news will act as a catalyst for consumers and business managers to invest in smart building technology and more energy efficient lighting.

“We hope this announcement will bring further investment and attention to the lighting industry, and its vital role in meeting the UK’s 2050 emissions targets.”

Zoe Newland-Hodges of Luceco, added, “The Green Homes Grant aims to make properties more environmentally-friendly and energy-saving LED lighting is part of the recipe. Financially, the return on investment is very notable when comparing the longevity and improved running costs of LED lighting versus traditional fittings, even after the installation has been factored in.

“Apart from retrofit LED lamps, one of the most common fittings that can be easily replaced in many homes is the compact fire-rated downlight, providing practical, dimmable and scene-friendly cost-effective lighting. With many options available on the market, it’s advisable to consider the lifetime working hours and other features.

“As our homes become more energy efficient, there is an opportunity to integrate intelligent technology within the domestic environment and controlling electrical devices and lighting could be a quick fix solution to improving running costs as well as a most welcome convenience enabling us to take control of connected devices and lighting remotely. 

“It’s been reported that homeowners will be able to use The Green Homes Grant on insulation, eco-friendly boilers, heat pumps, double glazed windows, low-energy lighting and energy-efficient doors. Could The Green Homes Grant also offer opportunities for not only improving the energy efficiency and cost effectiveness of our lighting, but also the benefits of improved lit environments with quality and intelligent lighting that enhances our lifestyle as well as our home?”

Should smart lighting control have been included?

The UK Government has included the installation of energy efficient lighting as part of the Green Homes Grant scheme, although it hasn’t included smart lighting control. That could be a major omission, as while energy-efficient lighting like LEDs could reduce energy consumption, they still consume energy if someone forgets to turn the lights off manually. With smart lighting control, it can further reduce the energy consumption of buildings by monitoring aspects such as occupancy and optimising lighting levels. 

When asked whether the UK Government should have included smart lighting, Hagemeier noted, “It’s important we recognise that improving buildings efficiency is a win for all involved, cutting energy bills, reducing emissions and putting less pressure on our infrastructure. 

“While insulation, double glazing and boilers are an important part of energy savings, investment in smart, connected and wireless technology must be a priority.

“Lighting alone accounts for 17% of building electricity use. Compared with manual controls, up to 60% of lighting energy can be saved by using modern lighting control strategies, hence solutions such as Lutron’s can reduce a commercial building’s overall electricity use by up to 10%. 

“This announcement should act as a first step in our journey towards more smart and sustainable buildings in the UK – we hope to see the government take further steps to incentivise this win-win technology.

Hagemeier concluded, “The UK has the opportunity to rebuild with sustainability and efficiency at its core. Smart lighting control technology has a fundamental role to play.”

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