Press | Published on 1st Feb 2017

Why limit boilers?

In August last year, HHIC, along with 235 others, responded to the government consultation on the future of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO): Help to Heat. The main theme of that response was that ‘Cutting the number of boilers that can be delivered via ECO is a big mistake’.

In late January the government published the response in full and it appears that we were not the only ones to think so, with the majority of respondents also disagreeing with the ECO proposal to limit boilers to 25,000.It also appears that despite the majority view BEIS have decided to stick to their decision to limit the number.

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.

HHIC 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 urged the Government to rethink and develop a more sustainable solution that reduces fuel poverty and allows a range of measures to be available instead of a disproportionate focus on insulation measures.

There are an estimated 9 million inefficient boilers still installed in UK homes. The English Housing Survey shows that privately owned and rented homes are more likely to have a noncondensing boiler, the least efficient type, yet the support to replace these boilers is being cut.  HHIC believes that installing a new condensing boiler is one of the most effective ways to reducing fuel poverty and helping to reduce family energy bills.

For homes in fuel poverty having a new boiler with associated heating controls could save £350 per year, not to mention the social and health benefits derived from living in a warm house. Replacing or installing a new boiler often acts as a catalyst for other changes and we believe that they should be recognised as a lead technology. 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 may struggle to find homes that want to participate in the scheme. The possibility of a free boiler clearly attracted people.

Gas boilers are also amongst the most cost effective ways of delivering energy bill savings to homes. This data from the NEED database shows that a gas boiler is as effective as cavity wall insulation in reducing energy consumed.

HHIC believes that the proposals are presented not to help vulnerable customers but purely to meet the Government’s aim of insulating one million homes by the next general election. Whilst we understand that this was a commitment that has to be worked towards, it does not help those in fuel poverty that the ECO scheme is designed to provide assistance to.

It is also confusing that other heating measures are still included despite them offering lower overall savings.

Of course, energy efficiency isn’t just about boilers; there are many other areas for discussion. But just as there is no one system that suits all properties, there is no one solution to energy efficiency. All measures are valid in their own right. Like a bag of nuts and bolts – together, different but all needed, which is why it makes little sense to limit one.

HHIC will now work with industry to develop proposals for ECO 3, which is expected in 2019. HHIC will be placing importance on new heating systems and first time central heating.

On a positive note, we are pleased that BEIS recognise the importance of first time central heating systems as a means of tackling fuel poverty, but we would have liked to see more specific support as outlined in the report from our parent association the Energy and Utilities Alliance; Fuel poverty- ‘A Connected Solution’.