Charities unite in call for funding to tackle energy bill crisis

An alliance of 27 major charities have today written to the Prime Minister and Chancellor, calling for urgent action to tackle the energy bill crisis, including boosting insulation funding.

The charities, which include Save the Children, Age UK, WWF, Green Alliance, Faith for the Climate, Tearfund and Greenpeace, are calling for emergency funding to support the most vulnerable and for insulation and clean energy funding to be increased to help wean the UK off expensive gas.

Without urgent government action the energy price cap could be increased by £600 in April, driven by the surging price of gas on the international markets, taking an average energy bill to around £2000.

The charities estimate that fuel poverty could increase by 50%, from 4 to 6 million households across the UK. There are fears this will lead to households choosing between heating and eating, an increase in the number of people dying in cold homes and a greater burden on the NHS, when it is already under great strain.

The charities remind the Prime Minister that a cut in support for making homes energy efficient after the last surge in energy bills in 2013 left households far more vulnerable to surging gas prices.

As a result of the Energy Company Obligation levy being cut in half and the Warm Front programme for the fuel poor being abolished, millions of British homes have not been insulated.  The cuts led to a 90% cut in loft and cavity wall insulation measures and half of those in the insulation industry lost their jobs. The charities warn that insulation rates have still not recovered and the same mistake must not be made today.

Juliet Phillips of the climate change think tank E3G said:

The Energy Company Obligation is the biggest programme the government has to insulate the homes of the fuel poor. Any damage to this levy would make these households more dependent upon gas, entrenching the crisis further.

Improving the efficiency of the worst performing UK homes could provide bill savings of over £500 every year per household upgraded, an aggregate saving of around £8bn

Investing in UK green energy and technologies like heat pumps would also help end the UK’s reliance on fossil gas. Renewables have helped to keep electricity prices from soaring as much as gas prices, as cheaper wind and solar cushion the increased expense of using gas to generate electricity.

The charities are also calling for emergency support for the most vulnerable, funded in part by a windfall tax on the fossil fuel industry, who are due to make profits up to ten times higher this financial year due to the surge in wholesale prices.

They are recommending expanding the Warm Homes Discount to ensure the majority of the expected rise in energy bills is covered for the most vulnerable households, for example those on universal credit and providing a one-off payment to those eligible for Cold Weather Payments.

The charities are also joining calls for legacy costs for renewables to be moved off power bills, to be paid for by the Exchequer instead, whilst leaving the Energy Company Obligation on the energy bill as a critical levy to help the fuel poor. They calculate that this would save households an additional £100 a year.

The charities also want the Government to fulfil its manifesto commitment to spend £6 billion on making homes more energy efficient. There is a £2 billion black hole in the funding committed after the Spending Review which they say must be filled, most of which was meant to go to the fuel poor.

Two thirds of households having no access in the UK to any insulation grant scheme. The charities want a new insulation grant programme set up to replace the failed Green Homes Grant which anyone can access.

The charities also call on the Government to ramp up the heat pump grant programme due to launch in April with ten times more funding, boosting it from £400m to a £4 billion programme, to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel boilers.

William Baker of Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty said:

The Energy Company Obligation is central to the Government’s legal duty to abolish fuel poverty by 2030. Scrapping the programme would show the Government does not take its statutory responsibilities seriously. It would condemn many fuel poor households to unaffordable fuel bills, ill health and in the worst cases death as a result of living in dangerously cold, unhealthy homes. The government must take urgent action to address the current crisis of rocketing fuel bills and expand its programmes to upgrade the insulation and heating systems of our notoriously leaky homes so that we are less dependent on volatile gas markets.

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children said:

The cost of living crisis, fuelled by soaring energy prices, is totally unsustainable and is hitting the lowest income families the hardest. Parents we work with tell us that they’re struggling to meet basic needs, leaving them having to make impossible choices between heating their homes and buying clothes for their children. And children are paying the price. Children deserve a fair and green future, and need a concrete plan from the UK Government that tackles both the cost-of-living and climate crises.

Dr Doug Parr, Policy Director at Greenpeace UK said:

The twin imperatives of a gas price crisis and the climate crisis mean we need to get off fossil fuels as fast as we can whilst protecting people on low incomes. That means we need to see short-term support for fuel poor families and long term support for energy efficiency and cheap renewables. A windfall tax on oil and gas companies would be a fair way to help finance the transition as we exit fossil fuel production in line with advice from leading experts at the International Energy Agency.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, which was also a signatory to the letter, commented:

After years of tireless campaigning by health, anti-poverty and environmental charities, trade unions and researchers, politicians are finally waking up to the tragedy of fuel poverty in the country.

Fuel poverty is a public health and social crisis but can only be solved by economic measures and the Government must do everything possible to help people in crisis now while investing in energy efficiency programmes to fix the long-term problems.

The full letter is available to read online.

Government must fund missing billions from energy efficiency programmes

The Government’s new Heat and Buildings Strategy has had a mixed reaction, with many anti-poverty and climate change campaigners pointing to significant shortcomings in the final announcement.

The headline announcement in the strategy is a grant to help cover costs of heat pumps up to £5,000. The current cost of a heat pump is between £6,000 and £18,000.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

For millions of households who desperately want and need to improve their energy efficiency by switching to heat pumps, the promised government money won’t be enough. While costs for heat pumps will come down in time, the level of grant available at present is nowhere near enough for households already in fuel poverty.

Coming on the back of the damning Committee for Fuel Poverty report, which suggested that government investment is not targeted at those who need it most, it would appear that the Government has yet to learn lessons from the past.

The government also needs to confirm what has happened to the missing billions, which is the gap between the investment announced today and the levels of investment promised in the Conservative Party Manifesto at the last election.

We hope the Comprehensive Spending Review will offer more support for families in fuel poverty and plug the gap between funding that has been promised and that which has been delivered.

Welcome for government energy efficiency measures

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition welcomes the government’s moves today to improve energy efficiency of people’s homes. We hope this is the first in a series of announcements that will help end fuel poverty in line with our submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The increase in Energy Performance Certificates to level C for those in private rented accommodation is especially welcome. The next step will be to ensure local authorities enforce these new regulations.

Homeowners in England, including landlords, can get up to £5,000 to pay part of the cost of energy saving measures like insulation. Low income households can get 100% of the costs of work covered up to £10,000.

The scheme will help fund energy efficiency and low carbon heating measures in 600,000 households who could save up to £600 a year on energy bills. Installing energy efficient home improvements also cuts emissions, which is better for the environment. Tradespeople and businesses should make sure they’re eligible to carry out work under the scheme, which will support thousands of green jobs.

More information is available online: https://greenhomesgrant.campaign.gov.uk/

 

One in three British households are already concerned about the health impacts of living in a cold home this winter. And should a second wave of Covid-19 hit during cold weather, the impact could be catastrophic for individuals and our health services.

As a result, the Coalition has urged the Government to commit to five main spending priorities:

1) Rapid roll-out of large-scale energy efficiency programmes

2) Urgent delivery of government promises on tackling fuel poverty

3) This unprecedented level of investment needs to be coupled with large scale training programmes

4) Immediate steps to improve energy standards in the private rented sector

5) Fuel Poverty Debt Relief to ensure fewer people will have to choose between heating and eating this winter

Coalition responds to Chancellor’s Economic Statement

Ending fuel poverty is a public health priority, which can only be solved through economic measures. We hope that the plans set out in the Chancellor’s Economic Statement are the first step towards an ambitious programme to end fuel poverty.

The Green Homes Grant and the social housing decarbonisation fund are welcome, but must be expanded to become long-term programmes. And the government must go further and faster.

The government must deliver the full manifesto pledge to invest £9.2 billion in building energy efficiency, extend the Warm Home Discount and introduce wider Home Upgrade Grants. It must also take further steps to improve energy standards in the private rented sector, alongside improved security and affordability for private tenants.

Finally, we must see a Fuel Poverty Debt Relief programme (not deferral) introduced to ensure fewer people will have to choose between heating and eating.

 

Business and charities unite in call for energy efficiency investment

End Fuel Poverty Coalition members have joined leading charities and businesses in a new drive for energy efficient investment.

A Declaration, ‘Energy Efficiency First’, has been published, calling on all political parties to make investment in home energy efficiency an infrastructure investment priority.

The Declaration states that to reach the UK’s legally binding net-zero emission and fuel poverty targets, all the UK’s homes will have to be made highly energy efficient. Additional public capital investment of £1 billion a year for the next 15 years is needed to ensure the targets are achieved.

The signatories point out that there is potential to reduce energy demand in UK homes by at least a quarter, saving the average household £270 every year. A quarter of the energy currently used could be saved and there is technical potential to cut home energy use in half.

The Declaration has been published on the day that the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group (EEIG) sets out its vision for how to make all UK homes energy efficient. Called ‘The Net-Zero Litmus Test’, it reminds politicians that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to decarbonise the economy and would deliver a net benefit of over £50 billion to UK households, businesses and government.

The report finds that installation rate of home insulation measures has been cut by 95% since 2012. 170,000 homes are being upgraded with energy efficiency improvements in the UK each year but the number needs to rapidly rise to 1.2 million a year in order to meet decarbonisation targets.

The EEIG reports progress made against the its six-step plan to set up an energy efficiency infrastructure programme for the UK and sets out how to get on track.

Peter Smith, Director of Policy and Research at National Energy Action, and End Fuel Poverty Coalition Member said:

Fuel poverty continues to be a very real and stark reality for millions of people across the UK. The aim to reach net-zero is one of the most ambitious strategic goals the UK Government has ever set. It will have profound implications for all UK citizens, businesses and society at large.

The UK can only move rapidly towards net-zero, whilst creating a fair energy future for all citizens, if we urgently provide central investment to improve domestic energy efficiency. The top priority is to help the poorest households living in least efficient homes, mainly in rural areas and other hard to heat homes.

Alasdair MacEwen, Spokesperson for the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group said:

Achieving net-zero emissions cost-effectively is simply impossible without a huge cut in energy demand. Whether any political party is prepared to do this is the litmus test of whether it is serious about achieving net-zero emissions. It can only be achieved if we treat the decarbonisation of homes as the UK’s number one infrastructure priority. No other infrastructure project can benefit so many and at the same time create returns on investment.

Tom Thackray, Director of Infrastructure and Energy Policy at the CBI said:

All government departments must buy in to improving the efficiency of our homes and buildings and work with industry to provide the correct regulation. Treating energy efficiency as an infrastructure priority, would change the way in which it is approached by the Government allowing the issue to be treated as other public investments, such as in public buildings and transport infrastructure. It would send a clear message to investors and consumers as to the direction and ambition of government policy.

The EEIG represents a growing and broad-based coalition of over 25 industry groups, NGOs, charities and businesses that are asking for rapid improvement on energy efficiency in homes and buildings policy in the UK.

For a full list of signatures to the Declaration, please visit www.e3g.org