UK Government finally launches public energy efficiency information campaign
Following months of pressure from civil society groups, the UK Government has signed on a public information campaign for improving home energy efficiency backed with £18m. It has also confirmed the details of the next phase of the ECO scheme, ECO+.
In a move that has been advocated by environmentalists, groups representing vulnerable demographics and even the UK Government’s own climate advisors, the UK Government has today (28 November) confirmed a campaign advising members of the public on saving energy at home “without sacrificing comfort”.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) confirmed that the campaign will offer information on how people can claim the one-off payments this winter that the Government is offering, and also provide more technical advice on reducing energy use while still keeping warm.
Tips provided will include draught-proofing windows and doors; adjusting the temperature on radiators in empty rooms and reducing boiler flow temperatures to 60C. Boiler flow temperatures indicate how hot water becomes before it is sent to radiators. This latter change, BEIS claims, could save the average home £160 per year.
Liz Truss reportedly had plans laid in front of her, from BEIS, for a £15m energy communications scheme – but threw them out as she did not want the Conservative Party to be seen as telling people how to shape their daily routines.
Rishi Sunak’s Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, confirmed at the Autumn Statement earlier this month that more advice on energy saving in homes was in the pipeline. He also announced £6bn of additional funding for energy efficiency – but there was some disappointment that this money will not begin to be allocated until 2025. The funding is part of the Government’s plans to reduce energy consumption by British buildings and industry by 15% against current levels by 2030.
Also announced by BEIS today are details about the next phase of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. The scheme obliges medium and large energy suppliers to fund the installation of energy efficiency improvements in British households, prioritizing those most in need, including pensioners, low-income families with young children and those on means-tested benefits.
BEIS has confirmed that the new ECO phase, ECO+, will be available to a wider range of groups, with the aim of helping all who do not currently have access to any other government funding to improve home energy efficiency. It will include £1bn of funding – 80% of which will be made available to homes in lower council tax brackets with an EPC rating of ‘D’ or below.
ECO+ will run for up to three years from next spring. BEIS estimates that it will save the average home around £310 on annual energy bills.
Hunt has stated that making buildings more energy efficient while scaling the domestic production of clean energy is the only way to “permanently” reduce home energy costs.
The UK Government is notably aiming for all homes to reach EPC grade ‘C’ or higher by 2035. Currently, 46% of homes meet this level of energy performance. The Climate Change Committee and other groups have recommended that the Government brings forward a new national home retrofit scheme in the near-term to get the nation on track to meet the 2035 goal.
Green economy reaction
Responding to BEIS’s announcement, the Association for Decentralised Energy’s (ADE) energy efficiency policy manager Chris Friedler said both moves are “very welcome” – but he has some reservations.
He said: “Delays to the rollout of ECO+ will now mean it will struggle to be implemented in time for this winter, demonstrating the urgency of early action on energy efficiency.
“The government also correctly acknowledges that ECO+ is a bridge to wider action and not the end goal of energy efficiency, with plenty of further ambition required in future, such as a more comprehensive coverage for all homes.”
Ashden’s head of cities Simon Brammer said that while the climate charity weclomes the ECO+ confirmation, the funding “covers just a few hundred thousand homes over the next three years, compared to 19 million homes that must be insulated by 2035 to hit the government’s own net-zero targets.”
Brammer added: “Most importantly, and quite incredibly, the funding doesn’t come into effect until April next year at the end of winter, so what is the Government doing to protect vulnerable people right now during the cold months before April?
“To reach the target of 19 million homes insulated, the Government must also urgently tackle the retrofit skills crisis, working with local councils and further education colleges to train people across the country. We need a 10-year plan with committed funding.”
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