Prime Minister Boris Johnson aims to protect more households with £1bn energy efficiency boost
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is developing plans to insulate hundreds of thousands more homes before winter, as the Government scrambles to ensure vulnerable energy users are protected from spiralling energy bills.
He has told minister to divert over £1bn from existing schemes to focus on insulating poorer households, according to The Times.
One proposal is to top up the “energy company obligation” which is levied from bills and funds energy-efficiency measures for poorer households.
Eligibility for the scheme could then be expanded so it could partially support middle-income households – provided they also made a contribution.
Ministers could even divert money from the £1bn public sector decarbonisation scheme, which focuses on making schools, hospitals and other public buildings more energy efficient.
Number 10 has also weighed up using money from the £450m boiler upgrade scheme that subsidises heat pumps, but ministers were advised that it was too late to divert the funds.
According to the newspaper, a No 10 official suggested it could be called “Insulate Britain” before someone pointed out it was the same name as the campaign group which caused widespread disruption last year, gluing themselves to motorways.
Instead, it may now be called the “Great British Insulation Scheme”, but there are concerns about whether it will apply in devolved administrations.
Efficiency plans coming in at short-notice, warns insiders
There are dissenting voices in Government to the plans, with concerns about the practicalities of extending the energy-efficiency scheme at such short notice.
Since 2013 the energy company obligation scheme has installed more than 3.5m improvements such as loft insulation in 2.4 million properties and reduced household gas demand by 20 per cent.
However, it ran out in March and the government has delayed the announcement of the new energy company obligation scheme, which was due to run from 2022 to 2026.
The programme manages to insulate about 200,000 homes a year, but ministers want to double that for this winter.
When approached for comment, a Government spokesperson told City A.M.: “We continue to look at ways to make UK homes more comfortable and cheaper to heat, which is particularly important in light of increased energy bills.”
City A.M. understands no decisions have been made about a new scheme to insulate homes this coming winter and our existing government-backed schemes to support energy efficiency remain in place.
This follows calls from climate solutions charity Ashden this week for the windfall tax levy to be channelled into boosting energy efficiency across the UK’s housing stock.
Meanwhile, industry bosses such EON chief executive Michael Lewis and Utilita Energy founder Bill Bullen have both called for more focus on energy efficiency – which was largely absent from the government’s supply security strategy which focused on ramping up energy generation.
Lewis told Parliament last month the government needed to focus more on energy efficiency, and that the supply security strategy should have been accompanied by an energy demand strategy.
He said reducing household energy usage through boosting insulation across the country’s housing stock could cut down energy bills, with UK homes among the least efficient in Europe.
He explained: “These are things we can do quickly. These are things we can ramp up for vulnerable customers very quickly, and we were very disappointed the government did not address that directly. That actually is the silver bullet for solving some of our short-term problems – a massive investment in energy efficiency. “
Meanwhile, Bullen presented a white paper to the government earlier this year, calling for a mix of energy efficiency measures and changes in consumer habits to drive down energy bills.