Testing the Affordable Warmth element of the Green Deal

It looks OK on paper, but does it work in practice?

31 July 2012

The Green Deal is fast approaching, and CSE is working in partnership with Scottish & Southern Energy and the district councils of Sedgemoor, Taunton Deane and West Somerset to test some of the key Green Deal mechanisms at a local level.

One mechanism in particular is the 'Affordable Warmth' element of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). This is the part of the Green Deal that will target support, worth an estimated £540m a year, at the 'worst-off households', chiefly the vulnerable and fuel poor living in hard-to-treat homes.

We're looking at this through a pilot scheme called Somerset West Home Energy (SWHE) which was launched in April (you can read more about it here).

 This scheme offers owner occupiers who fall into a defined ‘Affordable Warmth’ group (which includes those in receipt of benefits such as Pension Credit and Child Tax Credit with additional qualifying criteria) 100% funded basic insulation and heating improvements, including heating system replacement.

At the same time SWHE offers owner occupiers the opportunity to install solid wall insulation on a no upfront cost basis, no matter what their financial circumstance, through a mix of ‘pay as you save’ finance and grant funding. This is refered to as the 'Carbon element' of ECO.

One issue that policy makers are acutely aware of is how to reach and engage with the 'Affordable Warmth' group. Helen Grimshaw explains.

"This customer group has historically been hard-to-reach with insulation schemes, even free ones. We're keen to explore ways to get vulnarable householders on board, and keep them engaged enough that the installations and home improvements can be made, whether this is loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, heating system repairs and upgrades or better heating controls."

One issue is undoubtedly the requirement for the householder to get competitive quotes for the work and select a contractor, and making this process straightforward and reassuring for the customer is one of the things Somerset West Home Energy is paying a great deal of attention to.

In addition to managing the customer journey, the hope is that this pilot will also offer insights into building relationships with local installers and marketing the scheme. You can download the SWHE Affordable Warmth leaflet here, or read it on screen at the bottom of the page.

An Affordable Warmth case study
Mrs C was the first recipient of Affordable Warmth funding through Somerset West Home Energy.  This vulnarable householder suffered from high heating bills caused in part by her old and inefficient gas boiler. This was replaced, and new heating controls including a programmer, a wireless room thermostat and Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) were installed.

The scheme has been designed to offer customers flexibility and support when selecting a contractor to undertake the work. Customers are supplied with, but not restricted to using an approved list of local installers. In this case Mrs C was able to select her preferred contractor from three quotes which she obtained: a plumber that had serviced the central heating system for years and that she trusted to complete the work to her satisfaction. Payment was made directly to the contractor to avoid any upfront cost for the client.

Guiding vulnerable customers like Mrs C through the process is an important focus of SWHE.

This particular case also shows that there are opportunities to help vulnerable households at each step on the 'customer journey'. The Domestic Energy Assessor who completed the necessary Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for Mrs C recommended that she was given a 'benefit-entitlement check', and CSE was able to apply on her behalf for additional Attendance Allowance worth £51 a week.

Read the SWHE leaflet here:

For further details about Somerset West Home Energy contact Mike McClelland by email (michael.mcclelland@cse.org.uk) or phone (0117 934 1445) 

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