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OFTEC adds voice to criticisms of ECO3 proposals

Association argues that proposals to reform affordable heat initiative for retrofit homes risks further diminishing confidence in similar government schemes

OFTEC has said that the heating industry has lost confidence in government sustainable building programmes such as proposals for the third Energy Company Obligation (ECO3) scheme.

The trade association has joined other industry bodies in being highly critical of proposals for ECO3 and called for an urgent rethink in response to a government consultation on the draft amendments.

Changes planned for the scheme, which seeks to ensure more affordable heating within the UK’s housing stock, include a range of technical and policy amendments such as a focus on implementing first-time central heating.

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.

OFTEC registration director Adrian Lightwood said in the organisation’s consultation response that government needed to rethink plans for ECO3 and how to improve the energy efficiency of homes.

He said, “Government needs to get buy-in from various trades otherwise crucial retrofit energy measures will once again fail to gain traction. OFTEC would also like to see further industry consultation on PAS2035:2019 and how TrustMark can will interact with established schemes such as competent persons or MCS.”

Mr Lightwood added that OFTEC was particularly critical of the impact a revised ECO would have in potentially deterring smaller businesses from participating in the programme. He argued this could limit vital improvements of energy efficiency in key target areas and highlighted how the possible inclusion of Trustmark did not overcome ongoing industry concerns about the scheme.

Mr Lightwood said, “Building services such as heating, hot water and electrical however, already have mature, long-standing training and registration schemes in place such as GasSafe and OFTEC’s competent persons scheme, which largely work to overcome this problem.

“These issues have mainly been caused by funders focusing on quantity rather than quality. As a result, on-site installers have not been given enough time or resource to complete the work to the required standard.

Mr Lightwood that the ECO3 proposals risked adding to the administrative burden for installers that were already recognised by a body as is required under the PAS2030 standard.

Earlier this month, the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) argued that the heating sector faced being severely damaged and undermined by the ECO2 proposals.

HHIC director Stewart Clements 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.”

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