On the same day (25 November) that official figures revealed that last winter’s excess winter deaths were the highest for 15 years, the chancellor announced that he was cutting the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
George Osborne announced, in the spending review, that ECO will run for five years from April 2017 with an annual budget of £640m. This represents a 42 per cent reduction in expenditure. The average ECO spend over the 2.5 years to the end of June 2015 was £1.1bn per annum.
End Fuel Poverty Coalition (EFPC) chair Jenny Holland said:
“The chancellor failed to heed calls from 200 organisations to commit infrastructure funds to a major energy efficiency programme targeted on the fuel poor. He also indicated a cut in ECO, the only remaining help in England for householders living in cold homes. Infrastructure funds to make our homes energy efficient would have led to lower bills and a massive saving to the NHS. Instead he is slicing the key policy in England that can bring much-needed help to the fuel poor. National Energy Action (NEA) estimates that this decision could lead to the NHS having to spend in excess of £22bn to treat cold-related illnesses over the next 15 years.
“The chancellor’s decision was short-sighted – and we urge him to think again. We will also be asking the newly formed National Infrastructure Commission to recommend to government the use of the UK public infrastructure budget to invest in a major energy efficiency to make our homes warm and healthy to live in.”
A ‘consumer-led, competition-focused energy system that has energy security at the heart of it’ was the core message from Energy Secretary Amber Rudd when she announced plans to close all coal-fired power plants by 2025 but relax the drive for renewable energy.
The speech, on Wednesday 18 November 2015, aimed to ‘reset’ Britain’s energy policy. Energy Secretary Rudd did recognise that: “One of the best ways to cut bills and cut carbon is to cut energy use itself” and said she was ‘determined’ that help though the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) would be ‘concentrated on those in greatest need’.
“It is was good that Amber Rudd mentioned energy efficiency but it was towards the end of her speech” said End Fuel Poverty Coalition Chair Jenny Holland. “Energy efficiency and a programme focusing on the homes of those in fuel poverty must be at the core of any energy policy. Yet Amber Rudd’s pledge to insulate 1m homes represents an 80 per cent drop compared with activity in the last Parliament – and ECO alone can’t keep out the cold and make homes affordably warm.”
Jenny Holland also added that energy competition often failed those on low incomes who could not benefit from online deals using direct debit. “Making energy competition work for everyone should also be a government priority” she said.
Making this country’s homes highly energy efficient should be a national infrastructure priority, according to recently published independent research and would be a ‘win-win’ for the Chancellor’s spending review on 25 November 2015.
The research, by Verco and Cambridge Econometrics, revealed that a programme to make UK homes energy efficient would provide net economic benefits of £8.7 billion, based on the government’s own economic analysis – comparable economic benefits to infrastructure initiatives such as HS2 Phase 1, Crossrail and new roads.
Jobs, economic and energy security benefits would be created as a result Ref of an ambitious energy efficiency infrastructure programme according to the research. It could:
Reduce gas imports by 26%, strengthening Britain’s energy security
Deliver a net increase in employment of up to 108,000 jobs
Government is finalising its spending plans in the lead up to the Spending Review (when £100 billion is anticipated to be allocated to support infrastructure projects over the next 5 years). If just £3 billion of this were allocated to an energy efficiency infrastructure programme, 2 million low income households could see their homes made warm and their fuel bills affordable.
“This research is clear: investing in energy efficiency offers significant net economic benefits to the nation, comparable to infrastructure investments in roads and railways“, said End Fuel Poverty Coalition Chair Jenny Holland. “A major energy infrastructure programme would boost economic growth, reduce the UK’s reliance on gas imports and help deliver a net increase in employment across the country. It would keep energy bills down, reduce health costs and warm up the homes of the fuel poor.
“This country’s draughty homes are amongst the most expensive to heat in Europe. The UK has one of the highest levels of fuel poverty in Western Europe, as well as one of the worst proportions of homes in a poor state of repair. While most other European countries face higher energy prices than those of the UK, better quality home insulation means most of our European neighbours pay less to heat their homes. Amber Rudd says we need to build a new infrastructure, fit for the 21st century – we can’t do that while our homes are only fit for the 19th.” Ref
9th September 2014, Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament
Members of Parliament joined over 80 stakeholders at the launch of our ‘Ending cold homes: Affordable warmth’ manifesto. Our manifesto calls on the current and future governments to dramatically improve action to end fuel poverty and thereby improve people’s health and quality of life, reduce the cost of living, create jobs and negate carbon emissions.
Millions of people cannot afford to heat and power their homes and millions are suffering ill-health, stress and anxiety due to unaffordable fuel bills. Members of the EFPC believe that everybody has the right to a warm, dry home that they can afford to heat and power.
The Affordable Warmth Manifesto calls for:
Improvements to the homes of all low-income households to EPC C by 2025: Homes of all low-income households to meet standards close to those of homes built today (at least Energy Performance Certificate C)
Energy efficiency to be an infrastructure priority: Make energy efficiency of our homes a central priority for investment in the country’s infrastructure and secure long term funding for this.
A cross-departmental Fuel Poverty Strategy: Implement a strategy to end fuel poverty that sets targets for all relevant government departments and which works alongside policies on social well-being, health inequalities, housing affordability, climate change and poverty.
Delivery of home improvements and a greater role for health and social workers: Use trusted agencies and organisations, such as local authorities, to improve homes and encourage health workers and social workers to refer people for home improvements to tackle cold-related ill-health.
A better deal for low-income energy consumers and fuel bill rebates: A requirement placed on fuel companies to provide a better deal to those on low incomes, and rebates on fuel bills to all low-income consumers, with higher rebates for those in homes that are difficult to heat.
Employment and income policies that allow people to afford essential services: Make sure employment and income policies – benefits, tax credits, state pensions, minimum wage – provide an income sufficient to meet current costs of living and reduce the proportion of household budgets required for essential goods and services, including energy.
Hosted by the Chair of the Coalition Jenny Holland, a panel of Coalition members; Ed Matthew from Energy Bill Revolution, Sophie Neuburg from Friends of the Earth, Mervyn Kohler from AgeUK and Peter Smith from National Energy Action, set out our 6 pledges to end the misery of cold homes. Sophie Neuburg welcomed the strong targets set out in the manifesto and Ed Matthew said that the economic return from investing in energy efficient infrastructure is equal to anything else the Government could invest in. Peter Smith highlighted the need for a cross-departmental fuel poverty strategy and Mervyn Kohler argued for giving resources to local authority and health workers to take action to address the health implications of cold homes.
In response to the 6 pledges in the manifesto, a cross-party panel; Jonathan Reynolds MP, the Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change; Stephen Lloyd MP, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey; and David Amess MP who introduced the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act in 2000 – gave us their support. Jonathan Reynolds promised to make fuel poverty a prominent feature of the Labour manifesto and committed to a major overhaul of ECO. Stephen Lloyd promised to make sure the six asks are reflected in the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto. David Amess promised to take the manifesto to Number 10 and called on everybody to make fuel poverty a major issue during The General Election campaign.
We very much hope that the political parties will support our manifesto and work together to tackle fuel poverty. We are keen for new members to join the coalition. Please support the EFPC in our campaign to end cold homes. If you want to pledge your support please sign up on our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Future Climate and the Centre for Urban Research and Energy at the University of Manchester has published this significant report on energy efficiency for Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) and how to implement a specific policy for tackling fuel poverty.
The report finds that there is a strong case for additional regulatory protection from the cold for HMO residents. It recommends including HMOs within the Government’s minimum energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector. Please click here to read more!
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition welcomes the government’s recognition that improving homes to high energy standards is central to ending fuel poverty in the long term. But its strategy is riddled with escape clauses. The government says it will only improve homes ‘where reasonably practicable’. It was these words that rendered the last fuel poverty target virtually meaningless. The target must be met for all low income households with exemptions only given in exceptional circumstances. And it must meet the target by 2025, not 2030 as the government proposes. Without these guarantees the proposed target leaves too much wriggle room for the government.
Please also find further responses from members of the coalition below (please click on links below):
EFPC supporter Age UK has this week published a new report which calls on the Government to urgently tackle the nation’s problem of fuel poverty by driving forward a massive energy efficiency programme. The report argues that the only long term solution to ending the fuel poverty crisis is to make people’s homes as energy efficient as possible so that households can keep adequately warm at an affordable cost.
Age UK is calling for the Government’s anticipated fuel poverty strategy to include:
Targets to make all homes ‘fuel poverty proof’ – improving homes to a modern standard of energy efficiency, making them affordable to keep adequately warm
Whole-house improvements – not just offering the single most energy efficient measure but doing more if this is needed to make a house affordable to heat
Area-based, locally driven programmes – these are more cost effective to deliver than ‘scatter-gun approaches’
Serious involvement from the NHS, recognising fuel poverty as a driver of ill health
Steps to tackle fuel poverty in rural areas as well as urban ones – fuel poverty is particularly prevalent in rural areas due to the high number of stone-built, solid wall properties and households who are off-mains gas.
DECC has now published its Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics for 2014. The full statistical release can be found here.
Headline figures include:
More families are in “fuel poverty” than at any time for a decade;
The total number of all households in fuel poverty fell slightly in 2012, to 2.28 million – 10 per cent of all households – but is projected to have risen again by this year, to an estimated 2.33 million;
The so-called ‘fuel poverty gap’ – the amount of extra money a household would need in order to heat its home adequately and remain above the poverty line – is also estimated to have increased, from £443 in 2012 to £480 to 2014.