Warm Zones Evaluation
Testing the effectiveness of the Warm Zones pilot projects in eliminating fuel poverty
Project duration: December 2002 to July 2005
The overall aim of this national project was to test the effectiveness of the five Government-supported Warm Zones pilots for eliminating fuel poverty. The five original pilots were Stockton, Newham, Sandwell, Northumberland and Hull.
In brief, Warm Zones are insulation and home heating schemes that focus on a specific area and take a focussed ward-by-ward approach to identifying homes where free measures can be installed. For more information see www.warmzones.co.uk.
The main four objectives of the CSE's evaluation were:
- to determine whether Warm Zones were achieving what they set out to do
- to provide Government and other stakeholders with sufficient information on which to base decisions on the future of Warm Zones
- to inform the design of future zones by examining the experiences, successes and failures of five pilot zones
- to provide information on the effectiveness of existing schemes in addressing fuel poverty and identify how such schemes might be refined
The evaluation tested two basic hypotheses: 1) that Warm Zones will achieve the targets linked to the various desired outcomes; and 2) that the desired outcomes will be achieved more effectively within Warm Zones than outside them.
The evaluation addressed the following three issues:
- whether the Warm Zone approach is valid, sustainable and capable of being exported to other geographical areas
- the extent to which Warm Zones are influencing the development of similar approaches outside the Warm Zone pilot areas
- whether Warm Zone success might be at the expense of other areas and the extent to which success or failure is contingent, and not the result of the Warm Zone concept or methodology
The evaluation has focused on the success of Warm Zones at meeting their two central targets, namely: to reduce fuel poverty by 50% over their three-year period of operation; and to reduce severe fuel poverty (households that need to spend 20% or more of their income on fuel) by 50% over their three-year period.
See box (right) for details of CSE's evaluation reports.
The pilot period finished in 2004. However, all of the original five pilots continued in some form. Further, there are now several more new Zones including London, North Staffordshire, Gateshead and Kirklees. A full set of results on Warm Zone progress against target is not yet available. With respect to the main headline indicator, Zones will almost certainly not hit the 50% fuel poverty reduction target (with the possible exception of the scheme in Stockton).
The evaluation does not consider that this is due to failings in the Warm Zone model it self, although it does suggest a number of improvements. Instead, the evaluation highlights problems with the ‘toolkit’ available to Warm Zones, namely Warm Front, Energy Efficiency Commitment and the Decent Homes Standard. The Zones have also shown that removing households from fuel poverty through energy efficiency is very difficult, apart from for those in marginal fuel poverty. Zones have therefore increasingly put resources into welfare rights advice take-up work, since this tends to have a dramatic impact on fuel poverty.
The potential for a major expansion of the Warm Zone model will depend on the extent to which the toolkit is made more effective at both targeting the fuel poor and, once reached, ensuring programmes are of sufficient ‘depth’ to remove them from fuel poverty. It is possible that future Warm Zones could increase their impact on fuel poverty through greater integration of the different programmes within the ‘toolkit’.