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The Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 – Fact Sheet

The Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 (HECA) places an obligation on local authorities to draw up plans to increase domestic energy efficiency in their area by 30% over 10-15 years. The Department of Environment has estimated that a 30% reduction in UK domestic energy use is possible through energy conservation and increased energy efficiency without a drop in living standards . The objectives of the Act are to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), and hence help to combat climate change, while also reducing fuel poverty.

Background

The Act originated as a Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by Baroness Maddock (then MP) with cross-party support. It was given Royal Assent in June 1995, following a two-year campaign spearheaded by the Association for the Conservation of Energy. The campaign attracted the support of over half of all MPs, hundreds of local authorities and parish councils, and an unprecedented alliance of environmental and social welfare and women’s organisations. HECA is intended to provide a focus for local authority activities in the energy field, bringing together housing investment programmes, environmental initiatives and fuel-poverty alleviation. Through their roles in planning control and economic development plus their influence on local culture, local authorities have the potential to make a significant impact in this area. HECA is the first piece of legislation to devolve energy efficiency responsibility to local authorities. The Act grants no new powers to authorities, i.e. regarding access, grant-making etc.

Requirements

All district, metropolitan, London and unitary authorities became ‘Energy Conservation Authorities’ (ECAs) under the Act. The legislation required them:

To prepare a report setting out energy conservation measures that the authority considers practicable, cost-effective and likely to result in a significant improvement in the energy efficiency of residential accommodation in its area.

To publish the report and to send a copy to the Secretary of State for the Environment.

The report must include the cost of carrying out the works identified and the CO2 savings that this would bring. It must also include the text of the authority’s ‘personal circumstances’ policy, if the authority has one. The report may include, if the authority so chooses, the potential savings in nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides, the number of jobs which would be created, the average savings in fuel bills and in fuel use which would be made, and anything else which the authority considers appropriate. The Energy Conservation Act 1996 extended the remit of the Act to cover houses of multiple occupation and houseboats.

Consultation

In preparing the report, authorities are encouraged to consult other organisations, for example housing associations, tenants organisations, consumer groups, local environmental groups and any others with an interest in energy/housing issues.

Measures

The definition of energy conservation measures given in the Act includes: ‘information, advice, education, promotion, making grants loans and carrying out works.

Timing

The Act came into force on 1 April 1996 for authorities in England and Northern Ireland, in Scotland on 1 December 1996 and in Wales on 1 April 1997. Authorities in England were required to submit their reports by the end of November 1996 (other parts of the country had later deadlines). Subsequent progress reports are required with the authorities’ annual Housing Investment Programme (HIP) bids, the first being in September 1997.

Initial responses

By May 1997, all but 4 ECAs’ reports had been received. The reports varied enormously in length and quality. 29% failed to meet the statutory requirements and must be resubmitted.

HECA Action

One source of funding to support the implementation of HECA is available through the HECA Action programme, administered by the Energy Saving Trust. A total of £11 million has been allocated to HECA Action, available in three tranches – 1996 (£5m), 1997 (£3m) and 1998 (£3m).

The funding is awarded on a competitive bidding basis. It is not intended to be a long-term funding source, but a means of kick-starting initiatives which should be sustainable beyond the one-year period for which it is available. The 1996 round was awarded to 61 schemes involving 72 authorities. The 1997 round was awarded to 57 schemes. Both rounds were oversubscribed by around 5 times . Successful schemes include the establishment of community businesses, provision of loans and use of negotiated bulk discounts, as well as innovative approaches to giving advice and raising awareness.

HECA – potential benefits

  • Significant reductions in CO2 emissions (it is estimated that a 30% improvement in energy efficiency could generate a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions ).
  • Medium to long-term improvements in housing conditions, with attendant Treasury savings and the boost to local economies from tackling fuel poverty, poor comfort levels and chronic health conditions (resulting in excess winter deaths) all resulting from poor housing stock.
  • A national energy efficiency database, and accurate data on public and private housing
  • The integration of energy conservation into local government strategies such as funding, sustainability, housing renewal, environmental duties etc.
  • Strategic plans for improving UK housing including the cost, the measures and the potential savings.
  • For more information on HECA, see latest HECA figures (July 2005)

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