Energy minister Anne-Marie Trevalyan has announced £11 million in government funding for the latest round of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund (EEF). The hope is that this will help talented energy entrepreneurs turn their ideas into real products and services. But Matthew Fleming-Duffy, director of Cherry Mortgage and Finance, has warned that good intent does not always lead to tangible action.
According to the government, The EEF seeks ‘to drive forward new clean technologies across all sectors of UK industry, supporting the UK to eliminate its contribution to climate change by 2050.’
Energy entrepreneurs from across the country will be able to bid for their share of the £11 million pot, with between 15 and 20 projects being supported in total. The maximum single grant will be £1 million.
The hope is that the fund will help unlock innovations that can boost energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and develop green transport.
Since 2012, the government’s Energy Entrepreneurs Fund has awarded £72 million such grants, supporting 156 projects and leveraging more than £500 million in private investment.
Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:
‘The UK is famous for its strong entrepreneurial spirit. We want to unleash this talent to drive forward green technologies across the UK, helping the public and businesses cut their carbon footprint.
‘The Energy Entrepreneurs Fund is backing the UK’s next generation of inventors and innovators to turn their ideas into reality, with previous successful projects already helping drive down emissions across the country and creating green jobs as we work to build back greener.’
For the government to achieve these lofty ambitions, however, it is essential that the fund is well-publicised and brought to the attention of the relevant people. The government has received criticism in the past for bold-sounding green initiatives that have failed to truly capture the public’s imagination.
In conversation with The Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Matthew Fleming-Duffy, director of Bournemouth-based specialist, independent mortgage broker Cherry Mortgage and Finance, made this point in relation to green finance.
In July 2019 the government announced that a £5 million fund would be made available to help the financial sector develop green home finance products such as green mortgages.
Yet, despite the positive messaging, Fleming-Duffy explained that there was little sign of real action being taken:
‘The UK mortgage market is broad and competitive. There are over 100 lenders in the UK and thousands of mortgage products out there, so it is a big ask for any consumer to go out there and get the right product and the right solution that meets their needs.
‘Only 16 per cent of people on our survey intended to apply for the government’s Green Homes Grant which has come into force this year, possibly due to a lack of awareness or having bad experiences with the government’s previous Green Deal. So, it is marrying these aspects of home ownership, property purchase, mortgage financing, and the extra assessments that are needed to look at making homes more energy efficient and where the funding for it will come from.’
Going into further detail on the government’s Green Homes Grant, Fleming-Duffy explained that although it represents a step in the positive direction, it still falls short in addressing the wider issue of carbon emissions coming from existing housing.
‘Government statistics show that 600,000 should be able to take advantage of the Green Homes Grant, but it is only going to go so far. Not everyone will qualify, and more importantly, government statistics show there are 17 million homes in the UK with an Energy Performance Certificate [EPC] below band C, suggesting they are not energy efficient at all.
‘The grant will go a certain way to helping some, but there is a problem with inefficient older housing stock that must be retrofitted with energy efficient improvements.’
As the government pushes ahead with its Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, they would be well-advised to heed the lessons from the green mortgages. It is all well and good speaking about ‘building back greener’ but it is much more important to ensure that tangible results are achieved.