We must protect the ECO scheme

27 January 2022

At a time when we should be doing everything we can to protect people from energy price rises, the support for energy efficiency home improvements is drying up. This warning comes from the Centre for Sustainable Energy's Director of Household Energy Services, Ian Preston ...

First the good news. Britain's energy suppliers have done a great job of hitting their Energy Company Obligation (ECO) targets.

The ECO requires larger energy companies to fund the installation of energy efficiency measures like boilers and insulation into homes occupied by people on low incomes. It is a vital weapon in the fight against fuel poverty and cold homes.

But now the bad news. The money has almost run out. The well has run dry, and hundreds of thousands of homes that need to be made warmer won't be.

My colleagues in the energy advice team were recently informed that a particular installer is no longer taking referrals for boiler replacements on the ECO3 scheme. Other installers will follow soon.

The chart below shows that notified measures are nearly at 90% of the national target, and that rural targets have already been reached. This means that right now, many people suffering cold homes and who desperately need support won't get the help they need.

The ECO is a progressive levy as, overall, wealthier households contribute while poorer ones benefit. The government should announce a guarantee that ECO4 (the next round of funding) is safe, and that carryover of savings from ECO3 (this year's funding) will be supported. Suppliers of ECO energy saving measures aren’t going to stick around if there’s any suggestion that the policy will be scrapped – not least thanks to lobbying from the oil and gas lobby.

We should be protecting householders from the energy crisis by making homes more efficient without delay.

Through our advice line, home visits and one-to-one support, CSE supports around 15,000 people a year to reduce their bills and make their homes more energy efficient. Unless we see more government support quickly, 2022 is going to be a really tough year for many. You can see our latest comment on the energy crisis here.

Stay up to date with our work - sign up for our fortnightly newsletter