Grants for low-carbon homes tumble after change to rules

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The Independent Online

Grants for home installation of solar panels and wind turbines have plummeted despite the Government's publicly stated commitment to promote renewable power, official figures show.

Household payments under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme have tumbled from £536,000 a month before the rules of the scheme were changed in May, to £219,000 afterwards – a fall of 59 per cent. The number of householders getting grants has fallen 19 per cent.

The Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott, who uncovered the figures in a Commons question to the Energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, said the Government was in danger of "pulling the rug from underneath" Britain's micro-renewables industry.

Amid publicity about the danger of climate change, the Low Carbon Buildings Programme was very popular at the start of 2007 with the allocation of money running out in minutes on the first day of each month. The Government wants 20 per cent of UK electricity to be from green sources by 2020.

But in May, Alistair Darling, then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, cut the maximum grant for household renewable energy from £15,400 to £2,500.

Grants for solar PV and grants for heating were slashed by 83 per cent and those for wind turbines halved. Solar heating water was left unchanged at £400. As a consequence, more people are receiving small grants for solar water, but 24 per cent fewer are getting grants for solar heating, and the number of wind grants has fallen by 60 per cent. The total amount given to expensive solar heating installations has fallen by 76 per cent.

Ms Willott said: "The Government claims that by 2050, 40 per cent of the UK's electricity could be generated by micro-renewables, yet nothing is being done to make this happen.

"Ministers watered down this successful scheme because they couldn't cope with its overwhelming popularity. The new system has made installing micro-renewables far too expensive for all but the richest families."

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