Growth relies on more than tax-relief and red tape removal

Griff Thomas, from GTEC and heatly, responds to the 2023 Autumn Statement.

Despite not getting much mention during his address to parliament, Jeremy Hunt did offer a few positives in the full autumn statement when it comes to encouraging the take-up of renewables and removing some of the barriers.

VAT relief available of energy saving materials, such as Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs), is being expanded to include their water source counterparts, plus other technologies; the full details of which will be published in February. I hope to see battery storage added to this list, a real gamechanger for solar PV owners, dramatically increasing the amount of self-generated power they can use and therefore accelerating the return on investment.

Essentially, the grid needs home energy producers to back up its supply, so I’d be surprised if Electrical Energy Storage Systems (EESS) don’t benefit from VAT relief in the new year.

Drivers to speed up renewable take-up include the removal of planning constraints for EV charging infrastructure and heat pumps. The government plans to consult on introducing new permitted development rights to end the blanket restriction on heat pumps one metres from a property boundary in England, something that has stalled mass deployment in towns and cities.

Businesses have been encouraged to go green, with Permanent Full Expensing (claiming 100% capital allowances on qualifying main rate plant and machinery investments) extended to decarbonisation measures, such as solar panels and heat pumps, as well as green plant and machinery.

Growth relies on more than tax-relief and red tape removal, however. A skilled workforce is an essential part of the jigsaw puzzle. For sole traders and the self-employed, the statement outlined plans for HMRC to rewrite guidance on around the tax deductibility of training costs, in order to give individuals confidence that expanding skill-sets and keeping pace with technological advances are allowable costs for tax purposes.

£50 million was also pledged to deliver a two-year apprenticeships pilot to simulate training in ‘growth’ sectors – I just hope that the low carbon arm of building services is considered in these plans. I would like to see more robust, specific and widespread support for upskilling existing installers to meet the demands of the sector; it is, after all, essential to the UK’s Net Zero ambitions and the success of the wider economy.