Warm Homes Fund carries the load

19th Mar 2018

 

The Warm Homes Fund, £150m set aside by National Grid when they sold-off the gas distribution side of their business, was earmarked for consumers. It has been well used to deliver measures to lift people out of fuel poverty.

Last week, the review committee met to agree a further distribution of over £22m to thousands of homes in need. Around 8000 individual measures will be installed, both in urban and rural settings, across England, Scotland and Wales. In addition, schemes that will lift thousands more out of fuel poverty were also supported. Warm Homes Fund may only be a short-term measure, but it is a force for good.

And it carries the load in England too, as there is no existing Government-funding for such schemes – compared to Scotland and Wales. These one-off funds are no substitute for sustained levels of expenditure tackling fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty is, without doubt, a huge social problem facing the UK but little is heard about it. Interest is only seasonal at best when it should be a permanent feature of energy policy. There is a public body, reporting to BEIS, the Committee on Fuel Poverty but it has little power and influence compared to say the Climate Change Committee.

Here I’d like to see a shift in emphasis. Wouldn’t it be sensible for the Committee on Fuel Poverty to have a duty to assess the impact of Government policy upon the fuel poor? An independent impact assessment, like those performed by the CCC, would then allow policymakers to consider the implications of decisions upon those who are fuel poor or vulnerable to becoming fuel poor.

If the energy trilemma is real, then energy affordability for the least well-off, should be a priority and have at least equal billing with our climate change obligations. At the moment it doesn’t.

As an example, the current Minister, as well as current Chair of the CCC both, have oil boilers in their homes. The Clean Growth Strategy suggests phasing them out, on grounds of carbon emissions. Whilst these two may be able to afford replacement systems – indeed perhaps they should take the lead and change now – many others may not be able to afford it. An independent review allows these issues to be highlighted.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CE