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NEA seeks fuel poverty policy overhaul with government ECO consultation

Charity says government review of Energy Company Obligation as a means to address fuel poverty is a step in the right direction, but must lead to clear change in how low-income homes are heated

The National Energy Action (NEA) charity has broadly welcomed a government consultation on amending the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme with an extended focus towards ensuring warmth for fuel poor homes.

Responses are being accepted until April 29 to help determine the future of the ECO, which has been devised to improve the energy efficiency in fuel poor households.

Proposals being considered include amending the ECO to better support innovation and focus the programme fully on ensuring affordable warmth for fuel poor homes.

Feedback will also be sought on the types of energy efficiency and heating measures that could be supported through the ECO and the role of local government in the programme.

NEA chief executive Adam Scorer cited snowfall and severe cold experienced across the UK in March as highlighting an urgent need to address fuel poverty. Mr Scorer said he welcomed the consultation as a “step in the right direction” to tackle concerns over fuel poverty, but hoped to see genuine change in expanding support for lower income homes to stay warm, particularly during periods of intense cold.

He added, “The most acute gaps are for those fuel poor households in hard to treat, solid wall, homes and for those without functioning central heating. Currently, there is virtually no support provided for heating repairs.

“These households cannot afford to repair or replace boilers and appliances themselves, neither can they afford the financial contributions that are often required to take part in the ECO scheme. They will have suffered during the cold weather. Government needs to use the consultation period to find practical ways to help them.”

Mr Scorer argued that the ECO alone would not be a sufficient mechanism to meet government ambitions to curb household carbon emissions. But he said that there was a sense of encouragement that government was considering long-term funding streams alongside the ECO to enact more significant change to heating policy and support.

He said, “Not only would this help deliver the energy efficiency based fuel poverty targets, improving the quality of life and the quality housing overall, it can contribute towards achieving other important UK government objectives.”

“NEA also welcomes the proposed changes to the Warm Home Discount Scheme which provides energy rebates to the most vulnerable and provides funding for additional programmes that provide advice and support through Industry Initiatives.”

Bodies such as trade association OFTEC have been critical of previous government handling of the scheme, having argued that funding has been cut by 40 per cent in 2016 despite pledges from Whitehall to tackle fuel poverty.

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