The Prime Minister has also been attacked for failing to encourage uptake of energy-saving condensing boilers as part of the Home Energy Saving programme.
The package is mainly aimed at helping low-income families and pensioners cope with soaring gas and electricity bills. It comprises an extra £74 million for Warm Front home insulation and central heating projects and £350 million for the Community Energy Saving programme.
Gordon Brown has also promised to inject £560 million into the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target, which subsidises carbon-cutting home improvements such as loft and cavity wall insulation. But there is uncertainty surrounding what share, if any, of this pot will be devoted to installing condensing boilers.
National Energy Action and its subsidiary, Warm Zones, are less than impressed by the package. NEA director of communication Maria Wardrobe warned it represented a third of the funds needed to meet the Government’s legally binding target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016.
Ms Wardrobe said Gordon Brown’s Warm Front funding pledge was “…a reinstatement of old money plus £14 million. I wouldn’t call it a drop in the ocean but it’s not enough,” she said.
“If we are to meet 2016 targets then we need £3 billion every year. We are getting roughly a third of what’s needed. 2010 targets have been missed. But the 2016 target is still achievable if we get the extra resources.”
Greenheat managing director Peter Thom has waded into the debate with a call for greater financial incentives to encourage households to upgrade inefficient boilers.
Mr Thom accused Gordon Brown of mistaking renewables as the answer to Britain’s energy poverty problems. He urged the prime minister to develop a holistic energy strategy that would set out a supply scenario for the next 15 to 20 years.
He said: “There needs to be a consistent message that sets out how the Government will help households and what targets must be met. There is an absence of targets within the Home Energy Saving Programme in terms of loft insulation, boilers and cavity wall insulation.”
Echoing the NEA’s concerns, Mr Thom also questioned the controversial £74m awarded to Warm Front. “The public has been cheated,” he said.
But the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has defended Warm Front funding, saying it is part of a ‘new spending cycle’. According to a Defra spokeswoman, details of funding for new condensing boilers had not been specified.
Gordon Brown’s initiative has also failed to appease Friends of the Earth and Help the Aged, which are taking the Government to court over its failure to eradicate fuel poverty.
The case will be heard in early October, when the two charities will claim the Government has failed to meet its duties under The Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000.