DECC’s local authority competition gives an extra £25m of capital funding for fuel poverty in England – but it all has to be spent by the end of March. Making the cliff higher before we all jump off it (with lots of funding now, but no government money for fuel poverty from April) doesn’t help anyone, least of all vulnerable customers.
Can’t give it away….. With all the talk around Green Deal and ECO, it’s easy to forget that CERT – the current programme of energy supplier energy efficiency improvements – still has a long way to run. Not in time terms – it finishes on the 31 December – but in suppliers actually meeting their CERT targets for reaching the “super priority group” of most vulnerable customers.
And similarly, the goverment’s Warm Front programme – due to finish in March 2013, and under current plans the last public money going into energy efficiency for fuel poor customers in England – is struggling to hit its targets for reaching fuel poor customers in the right homes.
So when suppliers and government are struggling to spend existing money for energy efficiency in fuel poor households against tight deadlines, why has the government just announced £25m more capital money which also has to be spent by the same deadline 31st March 2013?
Of course the more money that goes into fighting fuel poverty the better, but it doesn’t help anyone if all the available funding falls off a cliff at the same time. Reaching vulnerable customers is about long term engagement. Government spending on energy efficiency needs to be built around the needs of fuel poor customers – not arbitrary Treasury guidelines.
The £25m for capital funding is likely to come into conflict with both the other fuel poverty programmes given preference will be given to the most cost effective measures. Maybe the £25m should be used – not on adding to the pot of capital funding – but for more innovative ways of tackling fuel poverty and helping to ensure that those most in need of support actually get energy efficiency measures through CERT and/or WarmFront before they end.