Heaven knows we need a fresh start. With every tweak of the programmes, with every refinement of the strategy, the prospects of a convincing victory on the core front just get more remote. The fuel poor get to make harder and harder choices, the old and the young suffer health setbacks, the misery piles up. Words like national disgrace, scandal, heating or eating, become devalued.
We’ve ended up with a totally perverse delivery system. The general consensus is that an area-based, whole-house approach works best: what we’ve got is market-driven, bench-marked by cost-effectiveness, and funded by the energy companies who can’t deliver at scale because of the impact on consumer bills. We have programmes delivering the least satisfactory outcomes. A Written Parliamentary Answer at the end of January says it all. Citing the latest figures (21 November), it reported the achievements of the Energy Company and Green Deal in 2013. 471,766 measures had been installed in 403,000 houses (an average of 1.17 measures per house – hardly amounting to a whole-house make-over). 394,370 of those measures had been funded by ECO, and 8,485 by householders getting a Green Deal survey then claiming the cashback offer in the scheme. Only 458 had gone ahead with the Green Deal package, including finance. Continue reading “Re-grouping for a fresh offensive”
At the heart of Age UK’s Warm Homes Campaignlies the conviction that the best way to insulate people from remorseless increases in energy costs and the health risks posed by cold homes is a major house refurbishment programme. The Green Deal was intended to drive that work – and upgrade 4m homes by 2020 – but the six month figures for the scheme are hapless, and we see no room for optimism any time soon.
As of mid-October, there are 219 Green Deal schemes in operation. True, there is a upstream pipeline of house surveys completed and Green Deal plans in preparation, but older householders seem rather underwhelmed. Whilst one in ten say their homes were not warm enough last winter and they would benefit from improved energy efficiency measures, 70% said they would not want a Green Deal. The most frequently cited reasons were aversion to debt, and seeing the ‘loan’ repayment scheme as too expensive. Continue reading “Green Deal performing poorly”
Ahead of publishing the June Green Dealstatistics, which the Department obviously knew were woefully disappointing, it went into overdrive to set out positive aspects of the scheme. It published data showing that energy efficient housing commanded a premium price over unimproved homes. It released opinion survey data reporting rising awareness and rising interest in the Green Deal. But the tangible performance record is desperately poor. Age UK is not finger-pointing and dancing for joy: the Green Deal and associated ECO (Energy Company Obligation) is the only show currently in town, and thus in the drive to address fuel poverty, and it needs to work – dramatically.
The ECO part, where energy companies install free or subsidised measures, is the closest we get to a silver lining. There were nearly 82,000 measures installed in the four months to April. The percentage of these going to low income households (those qualifying for the Affordable Warmth or Carbon Saving Communities) was nearly 70% (or about 170,000 per year if aggregated upwards), and most of the measures were loft insulation (56%), hard-to-treat cavity wall insulation (33%) and replacement boilers (10%). This installation performance suggests that households were not getting the comprehensive makeover which would make them ‘fuel-poverty-proof’, and barely dents the fuel poverty headcount of about 6m households in the UK. Continue reading “Green Deal performance data”
The latest annual report from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) covers the year 2011 – many energy price hikes and policy changes ago. The headline is that in England, the numbers of households in fuel poverty fell, from 3.3m in 2010 to 3.2m (and in the UK from 4.75m to 4.5m). These are the households which need to spend 10% or more of their income on energy to keep adequately warm, a definition we have all become accustomed to using. But DECC’s report has turned into a statistical soup, as it struggles to introduce a new definition of fuel poverty (which measures two different things), and reports anyway on a year long forgotten.
For what it’s worth, 2011 was mild (for both the winter months at the beginning and end), and this led to a fall in national domestic energy consumption. It was also the last year when the (now abolished) Warm Front programme was operating at full speed – the tax-funded grant programme targeted on low income households – so energy efficiency improvements were driving forward alongside the schemes offered by the energy supply companies to save energy.
The avowed ambition of the Green Deal is to offer everyone the opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of their home at no up-front cost, so enabling them to make it warmer and cheaper to run. Given that a third of our general housing stock is occupied by older households, Age UK obviously supports any initiative which will improve the quality and energy efficiency of our homes. That is particularly important because with the introduction of the Green Deal, all the existing programmes which have operated in this field in the past, such as Warm Front and the insulation programme CERTrun by the energy companies, are now closed.
The design of the Green Deal invites the householder to call theEnergy Saving Advice Service(on 0300 123 1234) to find a Green Deal Provider – a private sector company accredited and monitored by the Government. This Provider will then arrange for an Assessor to visit, and identify the relevant steps which could be taken (such as insulation, new boiler, radiator valves etc). The recommended work must meet the ‘golden rule’ that the cost of getting this work done would reduce the household’s spending on energy by a greater amount – so saving the householder money. A Green Deal Plan will then be prepared for the householder to agree to, an authorised Installer would then arrive to do the work, and a repayment plan will be devised which will be added to (the now reduced) electricity bill for an agreed period. In effect, the loan is a debt on the energy meter, not on the householder, and gets passed on if the house is bought and sold. Continue reading “Green Deal officially launched”
With the longest cold snap of the winter still underway, and snow covering much of the country, what can be done to protect older people from the cold?
As we get older, we become more vulnerable to the effects of cold. If you have read previous Age UK blogs, you’ll be familiar with the statistics: around 25,000 additional deaths each winter compared to the rest of the year in England and Wales, the majority of which are older people.
For every one degree the average winter temperature drops below 18 degrees C, there are 8,000 additional winter deaths. Following a cold snap in a British winter, there is a predictable pattern: a peak of deaths due to heart attacks two days later, a peak of strokes five days later, and a peak of deaths due to breathing problems twelve days later.
It’s simple, and devastating, and something which we should all be shouting about.
At Age UK we’re helping to make people aware of the health risks of cold and the simple steps – like keeping bedroom windows closed at night – that older people can take to protect their health.
But the bottom line is that many older people simply cannot afford to keep their home warm enough. Age UK estimates that around 6 million older people are currently living in fuel poverty (in other words, they would have to spend more than 10% of their income in order to heat their homes adequately). Increasing fuel prices this winter mean this situation is set to get worse. Continue reading “Why we need an Energy Bill Revolution”