Bureaucratic ineptitude ruined the U.K.’s disastrous home retrofit program, and the U.S. could draw valuable lessons from the debacle.
Last summer the U.K. unveiled a “build back better” economic stimulus package that was centered around a $2 billion program to retrofit homes. The program was supposed to fund energy efficiency and clean heat upgrades in 600,000 homes, but it was canceled recently after a six-month effort that may have killed more jobs than it created.
The Green Homes Grants program allowed most U.K. homeowners and landlords to receive up to about $6,900 to help pay for insulation, electric heating systems, and other energy-efficient upgrades such as new windows, doors, and heating controls. Low-income homeowners were eligible for up to nearly $14,000.
But, in order to apply, building owners had to obtain a quote from an accredited installer—few of which existed. Installers were reluctant to go through the time-consuming and expensive process of getting accredited without a longer-term assurance that there would be work. Program administrators often rejected quotes for being too high, asking applicants to provide more details or seek out additional estimates. Many homeowners dropped their retrofit plans as a result.
Retrofitting homes is a major part of the Biden Administration’s $2 trillion American Jobs Plan aimed at economic recovery from the COVID-19 recession. The administration can look across the Atlantic as a lesson on how to avoid failure.