CAN THE NEW ECO3 SCHEME DELIVER ON ITS PROMISES?

It seems that barely a week goes by without a consultation coming out of Westminster and this month has been no different.  One of these has been the publication of the Government’s plans for the third round of funding under the Energy Company Obligation – informally known as ECO3.  

The ECO scheme initially began in 2013 and since then has delivered around two million energy efficiency measures.  The current phase is due to end in September this year with ECO3 taking its place and running until 2022.

So what’s new?  Some of the key changes are

  • focussing entirely on low income and vulnerable households
  • supporting low income vulnerable households not in receipt of means tested benefits
  • focussing on first time central heating installations and removing funding for oil-fuelled systems
  • ensuring that 15% of the delivery measures are to rural areas
  • the desire to introduce new and innovative energy saving measures

It would be hard to argue against any of these changes; they are aspirational in trying to bring people out of fuel poverty and to provide a more comfortable and healthier environment for dwelling occupants.  

However, the key to success will be in taking a holistic approach to the energy efficiency of each building, installing more than one measure where appropriate and being able to offer installations by competent tradespeople backed up with guarantees.  This is why the link to the Each Home Counts initiative is so important in order to ensure that precious resources are not wasted on shoddy installations resulting in poor performing homes which later need to be corrected. It is also important not to lose sight of the consumer in all of this.  Multiple measures could mean multiple interruptions for surveys and installations, different people in and out of their homes which many may not be comfortable with. This all needs to be carefully managed and balanced and ways sought to minimise disruption whilst optimising the benefits.

Of course, we need to ensure that one of the key opportunities isn’t missed and that is to ensure that the fabric of the building is as thermally efficient as it can be before installing other measures.   So proposals, such as one to ensure insulation measures are installed when replacing broken heating systems seem very sensible.

However, it is disappointing to see a proposed reduction in the number of solid wall insulation (SWI) installations of c4,000 per year, purely based on cost factors.  Surely it’s better to ensure that more homes are well insulated rather than trading off on other measures?

But I do wonder if the scheme will become so bureaucratically difficult to navigate that social housing providers start to turn their backs on it because of its complexity and simply do their own thing because they don’t have the resource to administer it?   That would be a real shame.

There are many good and credible targets in this consultation but does the initiative really have the teeth to deliver all that it promises?  Let’s hope so.

You can find the consultation here.

For more information about the Insulation Manufacturers Association please visit www.insulationmanufacturers.org.uk

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