As the coalition prepared to propose cutting £50 from fuel bills, it faced criticism over rising bills caused by a big fall in loft insulations. Only 120,000 lofts were insulated in the first six months of 2013 compared with 860,000 in the last six months of 2012. There was a similar decline in the number of cavity walls insulated over the same period, down from 360,000 to 110,000.
Solid-wall insulations fell from 60,000 to 5,000, according to the Green Alliance think-tank, which based its report on figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. At this rate it would take 24 years to insulate the remaining 5.7 million poorly insulated lofts and 770 years to insulate 7.7 million solid-wall homes, the report said.
The decline in energy-efficiency measures coincided with the introduction of a new subsidy scheme, the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), completion of which is to be delayed by two years until 2017 to allow the Government to announce that it will cut the average household’s energy bills by £50.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg announced in a joint article for theSun on Sunday yesterday that homebuyers “could get up to £1,000 from Government to spend on important energy-saving measures — equivalent to half the stamp duty on the average house — or even more for particularly expensive measures”.
The announcement was aimed partly at responding to the concern that further delaying ECO will leave many families waiting much longer for measures to keep their homes warm.
The Association for the Conservation of Energy accused the Government of caving in to lobbying from energy companies, which it accused of wanting to delay ECO so that they could keep selling as much fuel as possible to poorly insulated homes.
Andrew Warren, director of the association, which represents the insulation industry, questioned if the scheme announced yesterday for homebuyers would make much difference.
“There is an existing government-funded scheme that offers up to £1,000 cashback for those who install any energy-saving measures recommended in an energy survey. At present that help is open to any householder, whether staying put or moving. Under the new scheme announced yesterday, it seems only those moving home will be eligible for help.”
George Osborne, the Chancellor, said that the money for the £1,000 handouts, plus the cost of moving the Warm Homes Discount from energy bills to taxation, would “come from additional taxes that we will raise from dealing with tax avoidance”.
The Green Alliance said: “Political leaders have pinned the blame for high energy bills firmly on to the Big Six [energy companies] who have, in turn, tried to deflect attention on to green levies. The reality is that high wholesale energy costs are the main cause of high energy bills, which neither Government nor energy companies are in a position to influence.”
The Commons Environmental Audit Committee will today accuse the Government of “shifting the goalposts” by redefining those who are fuel-poor, resulting in a fall in the number of households from 3.2 million to 2.4 million.