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The government has published an updated Fuel Poverty Strategy for England, setting out how it will tackle fuel poverty while at the same time decarbonising buildings.
‘Sustainable Warmth: Protecting vulnerable households in England’ links the government’s commitment to net-zero targets with its aim of lifting people out of fuel poverty through a range of measures.
The strategy announces the expansion of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) which will run from 2022 to 2026, with an increase in value from £640 million to £1 billion per year. Larger domestic energy suppliers will be required to install heating, insulation or other energy efficiency measures in the homes of people who are low income and vulnerable or fuel poor.
The strategy also announces details of new funding of £150 million for the Home Upgrade Grant. This grant will support low-income households with upgrades to the worst-performing off-gas-grid homes in England. These upgrades will create warmer homes at lower cost, and will support low-income families with the switch to low-carbon heating, contributing to both fuel poverty and net zero targets. The Home Upgrade Grant is due to commence in early 2022.
Additionally, the strategy will require energy companies to provide a £140 rebate on the energy bills of low income pensioners and other low income households with high energy bills, ensuring continuity for vulnerable or fuel poor consumers.
The Federation of Master Builders has welcomed the updated strategy contained in Sustainable Warmth, calling it a ‘welcome roadmap’ of the government’s plans to protect the most vulnerable households.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, says: “I welcome today’s Fuel Poverty Strategy, and share its ambitions to ensure everyone can afford to power their home. If the government wants to build back greener, however, it must go further. It should build on the principles set out today, linking energy efficiency directly to health, wellbeing, and job creation, and commit to a National Retrofit Strategy in order to deliver a plan to reduce energy demand and carbon emissions from every home across the UK.
“While the new funding announced for the Home Upgrade Grant in this strategy is welcome in starting to build a pipeline of energy efficiency work for installers, it is not enough. The lack of a clear long-term plan on energy efficiency is holding back builders like my members from investing in the skills they will need to deliver these works.”
Adam Scorer, chief executive of fuel poverty charity National Energy Action, also emphasises the need for a long-term strategy:
“This is overdue, but it’s still very welcome. Progress to meet the statutory target and near-term milestones has been flatlining. We needed vital clarity about how Government intends to meet its legal targets. This strategy helps and will support a range of public and private organisations to plan effectively and collaborate to help end fuel poverty. Critically, the strategy confirms that government is committed to the scale of resources we need to start to meet the challenge of ending fuel poverty.
“The opportunities and challenges that have emerged around the Green Homes Grant programme show just how much we need a long-term strategic approach to delivering affordable warm homes. To make urgent progress we also need affordable, warm homes to become a real public health priority, greater price protection for low-income energy consumers, continuation of the universal credit uplift and urgent provision to help households move out of problem debt.
“The strategy also shows how action for affordable, warm homes can be fixed into the net zero challenge. In particular, Home Upgrade Grants could be hugely important for households in off-grid communities who tend to fall through every gap in provision and may now have low carbon solutions available to them.”