The government today trumpeted a £ 1 billion programme intended to plug leaks in Britain’s homes, notorious as Europe’s leakiest.  But it won’t start until next spring.

ECO+ will target 80% of its funds at dwellings in lower Council Tax bands, who rate D or worse on the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) scale.  Vulnerable households on benefits such as disability allowances are also in the frame.  Notional savings for beneficiaries averaging £350 a year are promised.

D-BEIS’s launch announcement today explicitly states “the ECO+ scheme ..will run from Spring 2023 for up to (sic) three years”.

Standing on their head the ‘nanny state’ aversions of recent 45-day Conservative premier Liz Truss, an £18 million publicity drive will promote low or zero-cost measures to lag dwellings.  Ads will appear over the winter, in contrast to the ECO+’s delay.

The programme will arrive as the latest in a raft of government measures aimed at protecting users from sky-high tariffs.  Ofgem last week announced a rise to £4,279 for its price cap beyond March.

Expansion of Whitehall’s Help for Households campaign is forecast, promoting low-cost steps such as

  • Turning down home boilers’ default output levels –  otherwise known as the boiler flow temperature- from 75⁰C to 60⁰C;
  • turning down radiators in empty rooms and draught proofing windows and doors

Post-winter presaging of the ECO+ initiative comes ahead of energy secretary Grant Schapps setting out this week latest measures to deliver home-grown, affordable energy.  A statement on Sizewell C’s future is anticipated tomorrow.

Schaps and chancellor Jeremy Hunt were at pains to present Russia’s violation of Ukraine as key motivator in domestic insulation, glossing over two disasters which preceded Putin’s latest aggression.

Hunt declared: “With Putin’s war driving up gas prices worldwide, I know many families are feeling worried about their energy bills this winter and beyond.

“Our extensive energy support package is insulating people from the worst of this crisis, but we’re also supporting people to permanently cut their costs.

“We need more efficient homes and buildings”.

Third mass lagging lucky

When serving as Chancellor in spring 2020, premier Rishi Sunak aborted early the government’s last attempt at mass insulation of Britain’s housing stock.

With the UK’s thousands of installers embroiled in US outsourcing firm IFC’s slow issuing of repayment vouchers, without warning Sunak’s Treasury quietly cancelled the Johnson administration’s Green Homes Grant, with over 90% of  its £1.5 billion budget unspent.

Only 6,000 homes out of the projected 600,000 had benefitted from the scheme, leading to scathing criticism from Parliament’s all-party Environmental Audit committee and from the National Audit Office.

In March’s budget statement, Sunak attempted redress by scrapping until 2027 VAT on insulation materials – though not installation labour -, and on heat pumps, and home solar panels.

In November 2015, George Osborne also slashed 83% from a £159 national million drive to insulate cold homes, amid David Cameron’s notorious policy reversal, dedicated to ‘cutting the green crap’.

Campaigners against cold homes criticised the government’s lack of urgency.

Chris Friedler, policy manager at the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), welcomed ECO+ as a bridge between the Chancellor’s earlier statement of £6 billion more in funding for energy efficiency, and towards new policies.

“However, delays to rollout of ECO+ will mean it will struggle to be implemented in time for this winter, demonstrating the urgency of early action on energy efficiency, ” Friedler went on.

“The government correctly acknowledges that ECO+ is a bridge to wider action and not the end goal of energy efficiency”.

Plenty of further ambition was still required, such as a more comprehensive coverage for all homes, said the ADE spokesperson.


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