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Industry body warns of severe heating sector damage from ECO3 reforms

HHIC argues that government proposals for the third Energy Company Obligation and the recently introduced PAS2035 are too burdensome and ineffective in addressing heating sector challenges

The Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) has warned that government proposals to overhaul the third Energy Company Obligation (ECO3) scheme will serve only to undermine industry.

A government consultation on proposed amendments to the ECO3 programme, which seeks to provide homes with more affordable heat, has recommended some technical changes considering the implementation of first-time central heating. ECO3 runs until 2022.

Government has also sought feedback on the possibility of incorporating the TrustMark endorsement scheme into ECO3 to help determine compliance with latest PAS standards. TrustMark is endorsed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BEIS) as a means to try and prove technical competence in a range of trades.

HHIC director Stewart Clements has expressed concern that the consultation’s recommendations would adversely penalise skilled heating specialists, while also failing to address ongoing concerns about industry competence.

Mr Clements said, “The HHIC has consistently argued that the industry needs the existing building regulations to be better enforced and to have access to greater resources. Better policing and adherence to current standards is needed. What is not needed is another layer of expensive red and blue tape.”

“This additional complexity will almost certainly lead to worse outcomes for more vulnerable people, who could be misled into options they do not want or need.”

The HHIC’s response follows similar warnings issued earlier this summer by the organisation over the recent introduction of the PAS 2035 specification for retrofitting domestic properties. The organisation has argued that the PAS 2035 amendments, much like the government’s ECO3 proposals, serve only to impose further administrative burden on heating engineers without targeting barriers to realise more efficiently heated homes.

Mr Clements said that including TrustMark in the ECO3 programme, along with new requirements introduced under PAS2035, represented some of the most drastic changes impacting the heating industry for decades. He feared their introduction could impede the ability of skilled individuals to undertake work.

He said, “At present, ECO installers must comply with PAS 2030 which has been deemed bureaucratic, expensive and time consuming for the vast majority of heating installers. There are approximately 130,000 gas safe registered engineers in the UK and yet only 350 (0.4 per cent) of them have registered with the scheme. Why is government enforcing yet another scheme which is set to fail before it has even begun?”

Mr Clements claimed that the proposals set out by government would largely serve to benefit accreditation companies and the Trustmark scheme without ensuring benefits for consumers or installers.

He said, “Some will say that there is no cause for concern as ECO work is not compulsory and they can simply choose not to engage. We believe to adopt such a view would be naïve. This policy is sliding in below the radar. Once this standard makes its way into ECO it could (and most probably will) then make its way into Building Regulations and Gas Safe. The direction of travel is clear.”

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