About 11.7 million homes should be eligible for the program under criteria related to council tax and energy performance certification areas, according to analysis by real estate agents at Hamptons. However, 97 percent of these households will not have access to cash due to strict government guidelines.
Eco+ will leverage the existing framework of Eco4, a program targeting only those perceived to be experiencing energy poverty. It will be extended to households not currently receiving support, and suppliers must use at least 20 per cent of the funds to improve the homes of low-income households.
The remainder can be used for houses with EPC ratings of D or below in the lower council tax brackets (levels A to D in England, A to C in Wales and A to E in Scotland).
Under the Eco4 scheme, the typical grant per household was £2,000. If that amount were applied to Eco+, the scheme would need a further £22.6bn in funding to upgrade any properties that need upgrading.
Louise Hutchins of the UK Green Building Council, which has 700 members from across the building sector, said: “This scheme is welcome but it’s not big enough. People need it badly and it is important to increase it. It’s not enough money and a really short period of time.
“There is a huge black hole in government policy on how to get to net zero.”
But Nigel Donohue of the Insulation Assurance Authority, a professional body, warned that aside from funding and scale, a bigger problem with the program is the lack of qualified engineers to do the work.
He added: “We do fewer insulation installations in a year than we did ten years ago. We need a talent pipeline and long-term investment in skills.”
According to experts, the sector needs to expand dramatically to meet the government’s energy efficiency targets. The workforce is currently 200,000, but to bring each home up to a standard consistent with net zero it would need to increase to 500,000, Mr Smith said.
He added: “That is if we started this year. The longer we wait, the harder it gets. The average age of a gas engineer is 56. We already have a problem with retirements.”
The sector wants assurance that consumer demand will remain high enough to support an influx of workers – largely based on government grant programs.
However, companies have been hurt by previous programs, including the Green Deal and the Green Homes Grant, which encouraged them to invest in increasing their workforce but then failed.
Jess Ralston of the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, a not-for-profit organisation, said: “The insulation sector’s lack of confidence in government programs is very great. It takes real long-term certainty to build trust.”
In his autumn statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt pledged to spend a further £6bn from 2025. In theory, the move should give installers reassurance to invest in their workforce, but the sector has been wary of such promises.