Fuel poor paying the price for decarbonisation

18th Nov 2019


I’m told there’s an election on, so it might not be advisable to stray into “politics” but I’m going to do it anyway. I want to highlight what might be a small issue for the majority; will not have even been considered by those campaigning for your vote, but for the fuel poor in our community it will matter.

Recent changes to the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, not consulted on just imposed, will make it harder to qualify for first time central heating. The new regulations insist on loft and cavity wall being installed as part of qualification for first time central heating being fitted – with all the warmth, comfort and affordability that it brings.

Now before you say it, I will. Of course it is good practice to do this. Saving energy usage is good for bills and the climate, so yes it should be the norm. But what is nagging me, is should it be compulsory before a fuel poverty alleviation measure is fitted?

If you are struggling to pay the bills of old electric storage radiators and the offer of a free new central heating system is taken away because your loft is boarded or it is a difficult to treat cavity wall, is that a fair system? The quest for decarbonisation is trumping (as in the card game not US President) the quest to eliminate fuel poverty. And it shouldn’t be this way.

Of course we should do both, but if it isn’t possible should the UK Government, as it now proposes, put insulation ahead of a new central heating system? And here’s another thought. If the able to pay can install a new central heating system without having to insulate, why should the fuel poor be prevented from doing so? That is simply unethical. The most in need being stopped from doing something those financially better off can do.

I said it was not a huge issue for most, but for some, it will be. And down the line, when we start to pay the huge sums needed to decarbonise the UK, who is going to protect the vulnerable if we can’t even do it at this level?