Older and disabled people 'put off' by UK energy saving scheme

  

Older and disabled people are put off by the UK government's flagship energy efficiency programmes because of their complexity and fear of taking on debt, unpublished government research shows.

Focus groups commissioned by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) to assess the "perceptions" and "potential take-up" of the green deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO) found significant concerns, a freedom of information request has revealed.

The green deal facilitates loans - paid back via energy bills - to allow property owners to make energy-saving improvements. The ECO was introduced in January to work alongside the green deal to force energy companies to help low-income and vulnerable groups to make similar improvements.

National Energy Action, a charity funded by Decc, conducted focus groups in March of "older people, families and households with disabilities and long-term health conditions". The research found that "many of these households are struggling to heat their homes; they are concerned about taking on a debt/further financial commitment like a green deal in the current financial climate; they are put off by the complexity of the ECO; and they consider local authorities and voluntary organisations to be trusted sources of advice and information".

In January 2012, the NEA conducted focus groups made up of officials from local authorities. They gave a "mixed response" to the green deal and ECO, with "some seeing strategic benefits, some identifying operational challenges and some making practical recommendations for delivery".

The summary added: "The research found general acceptance of the pay-as-you-save principle behind the green deal. However, there was less enthusiasm in the private rented sector, where tenants were reluctant to participate in a pay-as-you-save mechanism to improve the energy efficiency of their landlord's property. The public underlined the importance of high standards of work, good communications and local businesses involvement in delivering the green deal."

Decc said the results will be published formally "shortly", with a spokeswoman adding:: "Vulnerable householders and those on low incomes will receive around £540m [€637m] of support per year, under the Energy Company Obligation, to help with energy efficiency improvements. Unlike a normal loan that follows the householder wherever they go, green deal loans stay with the property. So if the householder moves out, the new bill payer takes on responsibility for repayments, because the new resident gets the benefits."

Timeline: 
  • By end of 2013: Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta to propose a review of reduced VAT rates, taking energy and environmental criteria into account
  • 2014: Energy Efficiency Directive due to come into effect
  • June 2014: EU review of progress towards the 2020 goal of a 20% improvement in energy savings, on 2005 levels
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