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'Fuel poverty is rising in social housing and needs to be addressed'

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'Fuel poverty is rising in social housing and needs to be addressed'

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Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government

'Fuel poverty is rising in social housing and needs to be addressed' 'Fuel poverty is rising in social housing and needs to be addressed'

The Government has put restrictions on social landlords’ access to Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funding - which will top up Green Deal finance.

But fuel poverty is rising in social housing and is a significant issue that needs to be addressed, warns Rob Knight, head of utilities at carbon reduction company Sustain.

"The recent consultation from DECC provided much needed details on the proposed Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO). A degree of pragmatism has crept in since the initial political fanfare around the Green Deal and specifically recognition that it is unlikely to be a panacea to domestic energy efficiency, or what former energy secretary Chris Huhne described as the “Cinderella in the energy ballroom”.

"The ECO has moved not quite centre stage but is now a significant support act and will seek to address market failure around hard-to-treat homes and fuel poverty.

"However, in producing what I estimate to be around 1,000 pages of material, DECC has created a new round of questions. Although reassuring words have been spoken by Greg Barker and officials in terms of support for social housing, it is not included within the ECO Affordable Warmth Target, which is aimed specifically at fuel-poor homes.

"DECC provides some statistical evidence to show that social housing has less of a problem in this regard, and claims that it has benefitted significantly from EEC, CERT (priority group funding) and CESP, plus ten years of the Decent Homes programme. However, in absolute terms fuel poverty is rising in social housing and is a significant issue that needs to be addressed.

"DECC proposes that 75% of the estimated £1.3bn per annum ECO spend goes towards its Carbon Target and support of hard-to-treat measures that need subsidies from the energy companies via the Green Deal finance mechanism. This largely boils down to supporting solid wall insulation - far from sufficient in light of growing fuel poverty.

"Up until now the funding provided by the energy companies has been channelled to the housing associations themselves in support of qualifying measures (typically cavity, loft insulation, fuel switching, draught proofing and some solid wall).

"Practically this has meant that housing associations have programmed in the works as part of general maintenance and property upgrades. The big difference with the Green Deal is that the tenants will need to sign up for it and, crucially, pay for it via their energy bills. It is difficult to see this happening with only marginal savings that cannot be guaranteed and no additional incentives, as the tenant is likely to be adverse to new debt (even though it’s not strictly personal debt, as it is only payable whilst living in the property, for many it will be a burden too far).

"We will wait to see whether DECC lives up to its promise of “co-creationism” and reflect both concerns and positive proposals in its next round of detail. In the meantime, Sustain strongly urges social housing providers to take full opportunity of CERT and CESP funding. British Gas has publically stated it is struggling to meet its targets and there remains significant funding this year from most energy suppliers.

"However, this won’t be available from 2013 when the new policy launches, and crucially for social housing providers there will be no subsidy for cavity wall, loft insulation and heating measures. So act now."

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