Council concerned that energy efficiency changes could put vulnerable at risk

Council leaders are concerned that changes to national energy efficiency schemes could put vulnerable people at risk.

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) currently places an obligation on energy companies to install energy efficiency improvements in low-income households and areas, and in properties that are harder to treat up until March 2015.

The council-run Wrap Up Leeds ECO scheme works with three partners to offer free boiler upgrades and insulation to some of the city’s most vulnerable households and helps people right across the city to heat their homes for less. Both of these offers rely on ECO funding.

Proposed changes to ECO have been announced today as part of the Autumn Statement.

Subject to consultation, utility companies could have more time to meet lower targets and the target for insulating solid walls has dropped to just 25,000 homes each year.

This means that people in older, solid walled homes - like the 70,000 Victorian homes in Leeds - could get smaller grants through ECO over the next three years.

However, it was also announced that there will be additional grants for privately rented homes, homebuyers and incentives for insulating lofts and cavity walls and for new district heating systems.

The council will be working closely with its partners to encourage people who are eligible to apply for the new grants and incentives.

Councillor Mark Dobson, executive member for the environment, said:

“Everyone is agreed that we need to reduce fuel bills; people are paying too much to keep warm. However, the issue isn’t just the cost of fuel but how appallingly inefficient many homes in the UK are.

“We’re concerned that any delays caused by a consultation will bring more uncertainty and put more projects, and ultimately people, at risk.

“Investing in the energy efficiency of our homes is the only way to protect some of the city’s most vulnerable people from volatile energy markets.

“ECO is designed to do exactly that and that’s why we’ve been at the forefront of rolling it out. Since March this year, we have helped over 800 households to install major energy efficiency improvements, saving them almost £250,000 and cutting emissions by 1,500 tonnes of CO2 annually.

“With lower targets and longer timescales, fewer people will receive help. We’re concerned that vulnerable people could be left without help over the coldest months when they can ill afford it. The timing is particularly poor, creating uncertainty and delay when people need improvements to their homes the most.

“Harnessing ECO with our partners has brought benefits that go far wider than improving people’s bank balances and the environment; it is an important social tool that improves people’s health and helps reduce the burden on health services.

“We remain committed to cutting bills and emissions and helping people out of fuel poverty – there are too many financial, social and health benefits not to.”

People can apply for boiler upgrades and insulation through Wrap Up Leeds ECO now by calling 0113 3950757 or www.wrapupleeds.co.uk.

For media enquiries please contact:

Amanda Burns, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1577

email: amanda.l.burns@leeds.gov.uk