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Low carbon funding initiative set for revamp

The Government is planning to overhaul the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP) in an attempt to stem the embarrassing decline of grant applications to the scheme.

The move was confirmed by a spokesperson from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) who said: “We acknowledge that demand for the programme has fallen and we have been looking at ways to encourage uptake. 

“We met with industry representatives in February to gather evidence on the slowdown in uptake for LCBP Phase 1 household stream. We are considering the next steps for Phase 1 and 2 of the programme and will shortly announce how we intend to move forward.”

The LCBP was introduced in 2006 to stimulate the public’s appetite for renewable technology as the UK moved towards a low-carbon economy.

However, the Government underestimated the strong demand. When the grants were made available, they ran out within days, and then hours.

In May, the Government responded by slashing the maximum grant and making the scheme harder to access. Consequently, demand plummeted. According to recent BERR statistics, £60 million remains unspent from the total £86m budget made available to the LCBP grant.


Responding to the revamp, Andrew Cooper, head of onsite renewables for the Renewable Energy Association (REA), said: “Throughout this whole process the industry has provided advice to Government about what will and what won’t work. We hope that the Government will now heed our advice – which is to get the programme spent.

'The Government then needs to start thinking about what mechanism needs to be introduced – beyond LCBP – to encourage a mass market in renewable technologies.'

 andrew cooper

Andrew Cooper, head of onsite renewables for the Renewable Energy Association (REA)
 
“The maximum grant that exists for householders is just too small an incentive. We would like to see a restoration of the grant levels to where they were originally: £7,500 up from £2,500.
'The Government then needs to start thinking about what mechanism needs to be introduced – beyond LCBP – to encourage a mass market in renewable technologies. We believe the recharge scheme [whereby househoulders place a second charge on their properties to finance the capital costs of renewable energy installations provides a viable mechanism to do this.” 

 
Neil Schofield, head of sustainable development at Worcester Bosch, said: “We’re pleased to hear that BERR has decided to revisit the LCBP. Hopefully, it’ll be ready to increase the funding levels since reducing the funding in May crucified the solar photovoltaic market.

“BERR prefers to [delude itself] that take-up is low because the scheme lacks proper marketing, but marketing has nothing to do with it. One of the reasons take-up dropped is the UK Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).

Mr Schofield continued: “BERR created an accreditation scheme that is hellishly complicated and hellishly expensive. Heating installers aren’t going to pay a £1,800 registration fee just to be allowed to install the odd job. All they’ll do is rubbish the scheme to customers. BERR needs to understand that if it doesn’t engage the heating installer, then the installers will just work against it.

“We all want customers to feel reassured. But at the moment the MCS is just a huge barrier to take-up. Come September when BRE Global loses its monopoly to operate the service and it’s opened up to other certification bodies it will take off because then you’ll get simplification, increased competition and registration fees will come down.”