Press | Published on 1st Nov 2016

Fuel Poverty rises as help demises

‘We are analysing your feedback’ - That is the current status of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) Help to Heat consultation.

Heat and warmth must not be considered a luxury. The Committee on Climate Change’s Fifth Carbon Budget outlined that fuel poverty has risen to 4.5 million households (2013) from 3.3 million (2007) and suggested that even with fully funded targeted action it will take 15 years to return to the position we were in eight years ago.

Currently households often waste a huge amount of energy and money trying to heat and power their inefficient homes. If we replaced the 9 million inefficient boilers in UK homes and installed proper heating controls then household energy bills could be drastically reduced. For homes in fuel poverty, having a new boiler with associated heating controls could save them £350 per year. This does not include the health benefits that research shows affordable heating provides. Cutting this energy waste and achieving higher levels of efficiency would not only prevent fuel poverty, it would also help to tackle climate change by cutting carbon emissions.

ECO has successfully delivered more than 400,000 new gas boilers to homes. Since the advent of Warm Front in the 2000s, the UK has always had a scheme that allows people in fuel poverty to receive support in purchasing a new heating system. Gas boilers are also amongst the most cost effective ways of delivering energy bill savings to homes.

It is therefore extremely disappointing that the Government are now seeking to remove this support. We believe that capping the number of boilers that can be supported to such low levels will hinder the ultimate goal of reducing fuel poverty in the UK. We urge the Government to rethink and develop a more sustainable solution that reduces fuel poverty and allow a range of measures to be available instead of a disproportionate focus on insulation measures.

Cutting the number of boilers that can be delivered via ECO is a big mistake. Replacing or installing a new boiler often acts as a catalyst for other efficiency improvements and we believe that they should be recognised as a lead technology.

The proposed cuts are too drastic and too quick. The Government needs to stop and look at the energy savings that can be achieved when a new efficient boiler is installed, together with other measures. HHIC believes that it would have been more prudent to continue the existing scheme until a new fuel poverty focused scheme could be brought in. As significant changes in delivery are being proposed, these should have been earmarked for 2018 rather than for the transition year.

In addition HHIC believes that the drastic reduction in supported boilers will drive up the costs of the ECO scheme, which could result in energy companies passing this on to home owners; it will also make finding participants harder.

Evidence shows that participants want a new heating system rather than new insulation because of the inconvenience of installation and because it is less desirable. Therefore, without boilers being on offer, energy companies will struggle to find homes that want to participate in the scheme. The possibility of a free boiler clearly attracted people to the ECO scheme.

I would also urge the Government to begin the consultation period for ECO 3 much earlier. If the scheme is aimed at tackling fuel poverty then thought needs to be given to all of the measures that could help make a difference; extending the gas grid would be an effective way of helping lift people out of fuel poverty and should also be considered.

Isn’t it finally time that heat and warmth are available to all?

An extensive report on Fuel Poverty will be published in December from the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), HHIC’s parent association- watch this space!