A first step for minimum energy standards for rented homes, but not far-reaching enough

Written by Pedro Guertler on . Posted in Campaigns, Current Campaigns, Private Rented Sector Campaign

PRS

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey is finally laying regulations before Parliament that are intended to bring the coldest and leakiest private-rented homes up to a minimum Energy Performance Certificate of Band E by April 2018. Having long campaigned for minimum standards for the sector, we welcome this overdue breakthrough. This campaign has had to overcome considerable resistance to minimum standards, and we agree with what Ed Davey says in the Guardian today:

“Not everyone in this government wants more regulation. But in energy efficiency, regulations play a crucial role.”

But today’s development does not go far enough. Given Britain’s status as the ‘Cold Man of Europe’ (see the Guardian’s infographic, based on our earlier briefing), and that energy efficiency support for households, particularly fuel poor households, has collapsed this winter, we cannot stress enough that the regulations have got to go further in at least two important respects (see our response to the domestic PRS consultation for more):

  • Guardian © 2014

    Guardian © 2014

    The minimum standard should not have been based on the principle of ‘no net or upfront costs’ to landlords. It is quite wrong, as a matter of both law and practice, that a regulatory framework should be dependent upon a set of financing mechanisms – i.e. the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation – that may not even exist in 2018. We therefore believe that all properties within scope of the regulations should be required to meet a minimum standard of EPC Band E, up to a maximum spend of £6,000. More broadly, all domestic private rented properties should be within scope of the minimum standard regulations, not just those with a valid EPC.

  • Government should have today set a trajectory for increasing the minimum standard to EPC D in 2022 and to EPC C in 2026. An EPC rating of E is only the best of the worst, and a trajectory would have encouraged landlords to go further in one go, which in countless properties is easy and sensible to do.

We look forward to working with the next government on making sure these regulations become as meaningful and forward-looking as they can and should be to match the challenge our housing stock and fuel poverty poses.

Government betrays Britain’s fuel poor

Written by Jenny Holland on . Posted in Campaigns, Energy Bill Revolution

Energybillrevolution
  • Political spin a ‘cover up’ for 80% decrease in help to make  cold homes more energy efficient
  • 4 million poor families left out in the cold with no support in next decade
  • Energy Bill Revolution demands that the next Government makes home energy efficiency the UK’s priority infrastructure spending priority

February 3, 2015 (London): Inefficient and unambitious Government programmes have resulted in a dramatic 80% decrease in help available for those with freezing homes.

Fuel poor households will  be some of the worst hit, with the number of major energy efficiency delivered dropping from 112,000 in the winter of 2011/12 to a mere 22,000 this winter, a new report has revealed.  The big drop occurred after the introduction of two new energy efficiency programmes, the Green Deal and the Energy Company Obligation.

The research by the Association for the Conservation of Energy, commissioned by The Energy Bill Revolution, the world’s largest anti-fuel poverty campaign group found that, at current rates, less that 30% of 6 million poorly insulated low income homes will receive energy efficiency support in the next decade.

ACE joins call on Chancellor for emergency fuel poverty funding

Written by Jenny Holland on . Posted in Campaigns

ACElogo

ACE has today joined other charities, fuel poverty groups and industry in calling on the Chancellor to take immediate action by announcing additional ‘emergency’ funding for heating and insulation measures in the Autumn Statement on 3rd December. The funds would help reduce the thousands of vulnerable people who would otherwise die of cold related illnesses this winter.

ACE response to DECC consultation on a new fuel poverty ‘strategy’ for England

Written by Pedro Guertler on . Posted in Campaigns, Consultation Responses

DECC

ACE has submitted a written response to the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s consultation on a new fuel poverty strategy for England. A strategy is widely held to encompass the following elements, elements which we would have hoped to see after four years of deliberation: identifying the nature and scale of the challenge at hand; setting goals to meet that challenge; laying out policies, programmes and actions to achieve those goals; and earmarking resources to execute the policies, programmes and actions. Instead, the consultation contained a series of important but ultimately small picture questions. In our response, we focused on answering big picture questions not posed in it.

In summary, the draft fuel poverty strategy proposes to set a target to ensure that as many fuel poor homes as is ‘reasonably practicable’ achieve a minimum standard of EPC Band C by 2030. ACE welcomes the Government’s recognition that setting a high standard for energy efficiency is the best long-term solution to tackling fuel poverty. However, we believe that all low income households – not just those that are fuel poor – should be targeted and that the Band C standard should be reached by 2025, not 2030. We also believe that the ‘reasonably practicable’ caveat should be removed or, at the very least, tightly defined so as to ensure that it cannot be used by future Governments as an excuse for failing to implement the Fuel Poverty Strategy. Finally, the interim targets of EPC Band E by 2020 and EPC Band D by 2025 should be removed, as it is far more efficient and effective to improve homes in one go straight to Band C, thus ‘fuel poverty proofing’ them and removing the necessity for expensive repeat visits.

Statement on Closure of Green Deal Home Improvement Fund

Written by Jenny Holland on . Posted in Campaigns, Current Campaigns

jenny

ACE has today issued this statement on the overnight closure of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.

Jenny Holland, Head of ACE’s Parliamentary Team, said:

“The runaway success of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund shows that there is no shortage of householder demand for energy efficiency improvements. However, in the wake of the decimation of ECO and the failure of the Green Deal to generate significant take-up, the last thing the energy efficiency industry needs is this kind of stop-start programme.

“As recently as Tuesday DECC announced that they were cutting the cashback for solid wall insulation from £6,000 to £4,000. Three days later – and with no warning – the scheme has been closed completely. This is bad news for an industry that is looking for policy certainty and consistency – not a relentless pattern of peaks and troughs in demand.

“To create industry confidence we need long-term policies and programmes that are not chopped and changed from one day to the next. Structural incentives like stamp duty and council tax incentives will help create the certainty for which industry is crying out.”

For more information, contact: Jenny Holland, jenny@ukace.org, 07875 629781

Government’s fuel poverty plans are too little, too late

Written by Jenny Holland on . Posted in Campaigns, Current Campaigns

jenny

Today the Government published its long-awaited target for tackling fuel poverty1. The Association for the Conservation of Energy welcomes the recognition that upgrading the energy efficiency of our homes is the only long-term solution to fuel poverty. However, the Government’s target to bring all fuel poor homes up to Energy Performance Band C by 2030 leaves far too many vulnerable households waiting far too long for the help they need to bring their fuel bills down.
Jenny Holland, Head of ACE’s Parliamentary Team, said:

“We have long said that the only way to tackle fuel poverty at the scale required is to start by bringing all low income households up to EPC Band C by 2025. There should also be a longer term target to bring all low income households up to the standard of homes built today2 by 2030. But today the Government has said that it will wait till 2030 to enforce the Band C target, condemning our most vulnerable households to live in cold, unhealthy homes for much longer than necessary.

“In England today there are around 4.5 million households on low incomes who live in homes below Band C. By setting a target only for the 2.3 million deemed to be in fuel poverty, the Government is ignoring over 2 million households who are still far too poor to afford a Green Deal loan to upgrade their home.

“We are also concerned that having an interim target of Band E by 2020 means that action to retrofit homes to a high level of energy efficiency will not happen till well into the 2020s. We shouldn’t be installing single measures when we could be doing major upgrades all in one visit.

“Finally, we are very worried to read that the Government are only committing themselves to these targets ‘as far as reasonably practicable’. This is the get-out they used to wriggle out of their original legal duty to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016. Effectively it means that they only have to make a case that Government finances are tight to be able to wriggle out of their new target too.

“In responding to the consultation on the target, we will be urging the Government to go further, sooner and to make it clear that tackling the cold, leaky homes of our most vulnerable households is a top priority both now and in the future.”

For more information, contact: Jenny Holland, jenny@ukace.org, 07875 629781

Notes for editors:

  1. The link to the Government’s announcement is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cutting-the-cost-of-keeping-warm-to-tackle-fuel-poverty
  2. The standard of a new home built today is Energy Performance Certificate Band B.

 

Fuel poverty getting worse – and still no Government strategy for dealing with it

Written by Jenny Holland on . Posted in Campaigns

jenny

Press release: for immediate release

Government figures released today show that both the scale and the severity of fuel poverty in England are getting worse. Despite this, a long-awaited new fuel poverty strategy – first promised before Easter – has still not appeared, and support for the fuel poor under the Energy Company Obligation has been significantly reduced.

DECC’s projections show that fuel poverty in England has increased over the last two years – from 2.28 million households in 2012 to 2.33 million this year. Alongside this, the so-called ‘fuel poverty gap’ has also widened – with fuel poor households now needing an average of £480 more a year in order to heat their homes properly. This is an increase of £37 on 2012.

Jenny Holland, Head of ACE’s Parliamentary Team, said:

“Fuel Poverty Minister Greg Barker has greeted today’s figures as showing ‘welcome progress’. We can’t agree with the Minister that over 2 million fuel poor households represents any kind of ‘progress’ – especially since the Government was supposed to eradicate the problem by 2016. It makes it all the more vital that DECC gets on with publishing its new fuel poverty strategy, which we hope will contain ambitious proposals for actually tackling the crisis.

“Energy efficiency is the only long-term solution to spiralling fuel bills and freezing cold homes. That’s why we believe the new strategy should commit to ensuring that no low income household has to live in a dangerously cold home by 2020 and that they all live in a highly energy efficient home by 2025.

“Instead of tackling the fuel poverty scandal, the Government have wasted four years redefining it to make it seem less severe. Meanwhile, their energy efficiency policies are comprehensively failing the fuel poor. Their new strategy must show real ambition, with a commitment to radical action to tackle the scourge of dangerously cold homes that make people ill.”

For more information, contact: Jenny Holland, jenny@ukace.org, 07875 62978

 

Joint statement issued today calling for tough, enforceable regulations in the private rented sector

Written by Jenny Holland on . Posted in Campaigns, Current Campaigns, Private Rented Sector Campaign

PRS joint statement

ACE has today joined with nearly 30 other civil society organisations in issuing a joint statement calling on the Government to lay without delay tough, enforceable regulations to introduce a minimum energy efficiency standard in the private rented sector.  The sector has the highest proportion of the very worst homes (those in EPC Bands F and G) – with nearly half the households living in them suffering from fuel poverty.  The Energy Act 2011 required the Government to bring forward regulations to introduce a minimum energy efficiency standard, expected to be set at Band E.  However, these regulations look likely to be laid at least a year later than expected, leaving landlords and tenants alike facing uncertainty and confusion.  We are therefore calling on the Government to lay the regulations as soon as possible, to specify that the standard will be Band E in all circumstances and to ensure that exemptions will be kept to an absolute minimum.

PRS Joint Statement

DCLG: Review of Property Conditions in the Private-Rented Sector

Written by Pedro Guertler on . Posted in Consultation Responses, Perspective, Private Rented Sector Campaign

Department_for_Communities_and_Local_Government

ACE and Friends of the Earth have long been concerned about the poor standards of energy efficiency (and high concentrations of fuel poor and vulnerable households) in the private rented sector (PRS). The PRS is a rapidly growing part of the housing market. Of the 22.8m households in England in 2011, 4 million were privately rented (17.5% of the housing stock). This was an increase of 1.6m in only six years – and is the highest level since the early 1990s. The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued a review of property conditions in the PRS, and invited stakeholder responses; ACE and Friends of the Earth have provided theirs together.

Pickles tells Councils: no extra energy efficiency allowed

Written by Andrew Warren on . Posted in Campaigns

ericpickles

This week, local government secretary Eric Pickles’ department will table a last minute amendment to a Cabinet Office deregulation bill. Its text is set out below. The objective is clear. It is to stop any English local authority from ever again being able to set any energy standards for any building even marginally better better than the ones Pickles allows. Or rather, than the volume house-builders are prepared grudgingly to accept.

What is most disgraceful is that the original “localism” legislation, which allowed progressive authorities to promote greater energy efficiency, was put onto the statute book as the Planning and Energy Act in 2008 by the current energy minister Michael Fallon when a backbencher. He took up this private members’ bill very much at the instigation of the then Conservative party chairman, then loudly embracing the “go green, vote blue” banner. And who was then the Conservative party chairman? None other than Eric Pickles himself.

Since he became Community Secretary in 2010, Pickles has time and again proved himself to be hostile to energy saving. He has delayed the introduction of the new building regulations by 12 months, to April 2014 rather than 2013, and lowered their energy saving requirements way below the levels consulted upon.

The 2008 Act has succeeded in delivering higher standards of energy efficiency in new buildings, and so reducing future running costs for occupants. Particularly well-known examples are the Greater London Authority, set to deliver 40% higher than Pickles’ standards in 2016, and Cambridge City Council .

Pickles has long been a poodle of the big housing developers, whose commercial interests to spend as little as possible installing measures to cut fuel bills have promoted this personal U-turn. And because new property owners will as a consequence be paying higher than needed fuel bills, he has also shown that his concern is to maximise the profits of the big energy companies, rather than helping hard-pressed households enjoy lower fuel bills.

The original Act was also trumpeted by Pickles as representing a victory for localism, permitting councils to include higher than minimum standards in their local plans. Now however Pickles believes that the man in Whitehall – in other words, him – always knows best. And local authorities should just do what they are told.

This government amendment means that, yet again, Eric Pickles’ Communities Department , by promoting this mean-minded little clause, is determined upon undermining the Prime Minister’s declared objective to make the UK the most energy efficient country in Europe.

He is not content with having watered down the new national energy efficiency building regulations, which come into force next month – a year late, and with just a 6% rather than the anticipated 25% improvement on the old requirements.

He is now denying any opportunity for more progressive councils to continue setting higher standards than his minimum.