Low Carbon Buildings Programme

For anyone looking to reduce their carbon footprint, there’s more than a little good news in the Low Carbon Buildings Programme – the UK government’s grant scheme to promote energy initiatives by householders, community groups, businesses and public organisations.

With householders able to apply for grants towards approved technologies from certified installers, the programme offers support to anyone wanting to move towards a greener, carbon neutral lifestyle. The details vary between the different systems, but in general, around a third of the costs of the new installation will be paid for – up to a maximum of £2,500, in some cases.

The whole thing is built around the idea that by enabling us to produce clean, green energy for ourselves, we can all lessen our carbon emissions and reduce our fuel bills. It’s an idea which has an obvious appeal – so how do you get started?

First Steps

The first steps towards lowering your carbon footprint with this programme is to make sure your home meets the necessary energy efficiency requirements – many do already – but if yours doesn’t, you’ll need to sort this out first, or you won’t be eligible to apply. These conditions are:

  • Loft Insulation – the whole of the loft needs to be insulated with at least 270mm of suitable material
  • Cavity Wall Insulation – though this obviously only applies if you have cavity walls.
  • Low Energy Light Bulbs – these need to be in every appropriate fitting throughout the house.
  • Controllable Heating – your heating system has to have at least some basic controls, typically a thermostat and timer.

Meet all these requirements and you can move on to the next step – although the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), who administer the grant, recommend you use the opportunity to have a complete energy check done before you do.

Making The Application

A range of low carbon technologies are eligible, including both air source and ground source heat pumps, fuel cells, combined heat and power (CHP), some kinds of wood-fuelled heating, solar energy – both thermal water heating and photovoltaic, small-scale hydro electric and wind turbines.

Once you have decided which one is right for you, the next thing to do is to get a quote from an accredited installer to do the work – BERR have a useful online search to help you find properly certified engineers in your local area. If your project is likely to need planning permission, you’ll need to get this arranged too.

Applications themselves are made online and if you’re successful, you’ll get a letter offering you a grant via email. You can then go ahead with ordering your new system and getting it installed – but bear in mind that the work has to be carried out within a time limit to qualify for the grant payment. The length of time varies with the type of system being installed and for some you get a little longer if the house is a new one still in the process of being built.

Once the work is finished, you are responsible for paying the installer, after which you submit the appropriate documents to the Energy Saving Trust, who run this part of the scheme; when the claim has been checked and everything is in order, within 25 working days you receive your grant.

Who Can Apply?

Since the aim of this programme is to lower the carbon footprint of as many buildings as possible, the qualifying conditions have been deliberately kept simple. In short, anyone who is resident in the UK – but not the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands – can apply, provided they are the owner of the property (of have the owner’s permission if the house is leasehold).

The system must be for a permanent building in Britain and the scheme’s basic energy efficiency terms – and planning requirements, if needed – have been met. You can even apply for up to three different systems in any one building – and for up to three different buildings – although the maximum grant for any one address is £2,500.

The BERR website offers a wealth of information and guidance for anyone contemplating making an application and also gives details of how much is available for each different technology.

No matter how much we want to reduce our carbon footprint, there’s no escaping the fact that trying to go carbon neutral doesn’t come cheap! However, if you’re looking at any of the technologies supported by the Low Carbon Buildings Programme – and there’s certainly plenty to choose from – applying for a grant which could cover 30 per cent of the costs has got to be worth a try.