“Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions”

22nd Oct 2018


Ministers are currently considering the responses to the consultation to end house coal sales. Coal is carbon intensive and contributes to poor air quality in built up areas. There are around 120,000 homes heated solely by coal/solid fuel, typically older, more difficult to heat and consequently more likely to be in fuel poverty. Banning the use of coal would cause real hardship.

If carbon reduction is the aim, then it is cheaper (at approx. £4000 a property to install first time gas central heating) than retrofit the home with insulation that renders it suitable for alternative heating systems. It will reduce carbon emissions significantly, natural gas has 42 per cent lower carbon emissions than coal.
These properties are at the vanguard of change that will be required to meet the UK’s carbon emission targets, yet they are also the ones most likely to be in fuel poverty or have low incomes and be financially vulnerable. So how does society, which is demanding the change, help?

ECO3 is the only route currently available. Using cash raised from all bill payers to socialise the cost of decarbonisation is OK in principle. (Not as fair as general taxation funding but that’s unlikely to be available). The DEFRA consultation considered the ban on coal sales taking effect within two years, so there is no time to waste.

For a small, but important group of former miners and their widows, there is another funding option available. Under the National Concessionary Fuel Scheme, around 6,000 people are given £1300 of coal a year (imported these days) to burn. The majority of former coal industry employees take the £600 cash option instead.

But for those relying on their free coal, the economics of switching to gas (mains connections or LPG) are straightforward to envisage. Bringing forward the £1300 payments to install first time central heating, then switching the household to the £600 alternative fuel option will avoid real hardship; deliver a benefit for the rest of the lives of those benefitting and future proof the house with an efficient heating system. What’s more, we know all the names and addresses too. There’s my solution Minister.