“I’ll kick the backside of anyone who criticises this scheme”

4th Jun 2018

 

That was the down-to-earth statement I heard from a Dagenham resident on Friday, whilst visiting an Affordable Warmth Solutions fuel poor scheme with the Ofgem CEO Dermot Nolan. And if you’ve seen the film “Made in Dagenham” you’d better pay attention.

First the engineering/technical bit. AWS delivers Cadent’s Fuel Poor Network Extension Scheme obligation for the gas connections. In this case, they also provided the funding for the first time gas central heating installation. The scheme consisted of over 90 homes, built 1980/90s – yes you read that right, relatively modern homes that had electric heating. The tenure mix was 70% owner-occupier, 30% private rented in an area of acknowledged need.

Now those old heating systems – mostly electric storage radiators (you know, you heat a brick at night and it radiates warmth during the day). Typical heating bills were around £1300 a year and it was pointed out they were cold by early evening. Residents spoke about the misery of a cold home, especially with children around.

The testimonies were so powerful. Residents no longer wearing coats in the house; no need to buy additional electric convection heaters and hot water on tap too. In the 21st Century, hearing someone speak about the initial shock they felt when going upstairs to bed and it wasn’t uncomfortably cold, warms the heart of even the hardest regulator.

As a country we need to do more. It cannot be right that Scotland and Wales have public funding for first-time central heating installations but there is no such scheme in England. Fuel poverty is getting worse, 4 million households and rising. ECO3 whilst welcome, doesn’t offer a radical alternative. But up and down the country, gas networks and their partners are doing the hard yards and making a difference, albeit a modest one in the overall scheme of things.

But this assessment underplays the impact on ordinary lives, transformed by comfort and warmth – in a way so many of us take for granted. That was the lesson we all learned in Dagenham last week.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CE