Memorandum from National Energy Action
NEA is the national charity which develops and
promotes practical action to alleviate fuel poverty. NEA submitted
written evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee's Energy
Efficiency Report and welcomes the opportunity to comment further
on the report's conclusions and on subsequent policy developments.
NEA notes a degree of equivocation in the Government's
commitment to the reduction of 20 per cent in CO2 emissions over
1990 levels by the 2010. Whilst this reflects the ambitious nature
of the objective it is important that it be seen as a target rather
NEA welcomes the emphasis on improved energy
efficiency in the domestic sector and endorses the expansion of
Energy Efficiency Standards to the gas industry and the renewed
emphasis on priority assistance for older consumers and vulnerable
The devolution of responsibility for EESoP 4
from the regulator to the Secretary of State is particularly important
as charges levied on consumers will increase substantially. Clearly
it is appropriate that a policy investment such as EESoP should
be directed by Government rather than an appointed official.
The New Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES)
is a major advance and can make a substantial contribution to
the alleviation of fuel poverty. NEA welcomed the increased budget
for the scheme and the inclusion of heating system improvements.
However there is some concern about the post-devolution fragmentation
of the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme and, in particular, the contrast
between HEES in England and the Warm Deal in Scotland. Whereas
the maximum grant in England will be £2,000 the figure for
Scotland is £500.
The Utilities Bill can make a major contribution
to the alleviation of fuel poverty and NEA welcomes the intent
behind the proposed legislation. The inclusion of guidance on
social and environmental matters is particularly important in
ensuring protection for low-income consumers. NEA believes this
element of the Utilities Bill to be overly vague and leaving too
much to the discretion and judgement of the Authority. Government
policy objectives can only be secured through prescription and
The Bill's provisions on help for disadvantaged
groups of electricity/gas consumers are unnecessarily limited.
The Secretary of State's powers should include potential intervention
beyond the tariff structure to ensure other areas of service provision
such as a moratorium on disconnection from supply for disadvantaged
NEA also has reservations about the energy efficiency
requirements for electricity distributors and suppliers/gas transporters
and suppliers. The term "promotion" is weak in describing
what ought to be measurable outcomes through the implementation
of practical energy efficiency measures. Any requirement should
emphasise the need to secure energy efficiency improvements.
NEA endorses the Committee's view that energy
efficiency should be prioritised in the hierarchy. It is clearly
a prerequisite for sustainability and is also the unique long-term
solution to fuel poverty.
The Government's energy strategy should feature
clear targets for energy efficiency improvements across all sectors.
The Home Energy Conservation Act provides a model for this approach
in the domestic sector and consideration should be given as to
how this might be extended to industry, commerce and transport.
There is universal recognition that the only
permanent solution to fuel poverty lies in energy efficiency.
The Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Bill requires the Government
to develop a strategy to eliminate fuel poverty. There is unanimous
all-party support for the objectives of the Bill which completed
its second Reading Stage on March 10 with 143 supporting votes
to none against. The Bill starts its Committee Stage on 5 April.
NEA commends the DETR's issuing of guidance
to local authorities on including progress on fuel poverty reduction
as an element of their Home Energy Conservation Act reports but
regrets that local authorities will not be required to quantify
the size of the problem. Reliable information on the breadth and
depth of the problem is essential to accurate measurement of progress.
Initial findings from New HEES pilot schemes
managed by the Energy Saving Trust suggest that beneficiaries
are still not being taken out of fuel poverty. The DETR should
establish a monitoring procedure to determine the capacity of
New HEES to fulfil its objectives of reducing fuel poverty.
NEA welcomes the renewed commitment by the DTI
to the Affordable Warmth Programme and its objective of helping
install 1 million modern gas heating systems primarily for low-income
households. The reduction in Value Added Tax on domestic energy
efficiency work is also a positive development by Government.
However NEA is ambivalent about the Chancellor's decision to raise
the Winter Fuel Allowance for pensioners from £100 per household
to £150. Whilst this will undoubtedly benefit the poorest
pensioners it excludes the poorest non-pensioner households and
includes those affluent pensioners who have no need for such a
subsidy. Expenditure on Winter Fuel Allowances will total some
£1.2 billion per year from next winter. These resources would
have been much better diverted to a major national programme of
domestic energy efficiency.