2009-2010 NEA continued to campaign on issues of debt and financial inclusion. Along with other partners we were successful in persuading all energy suppliers to equalise their prepayment meter tariffs in line with standard quarterly billing, potentially benefiting millions of households.
NEA also lobbied to secure clearer information for customers and better advice on tariffs. Successful outcomes included the introduction by Ofgem of two new Licence Conditions prohibiting undue discrimination between different groups of customers and ensuring that any difference offered in respect of different payment methods was cost reflective.
NEA worked with credit unions and cooperatives operating in rural areas to develop a finance model for microgeneration and to establish the savings that could be made by bulk purchase of oil.
Work with the health sector was a particular focus, aiming to raise awareness of the health hazards posed by cold, damp homes and to improve cross-sector working. NEA worked with a number of Primary Care Trusts, particularly in the West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber on practical initiatives and delivered a series of seminars entitled ‘Dying to be Warm – how to reduce excess winter mortality and improve the quality of life for people in your PCT area’ which informed health practitioners at both policy and practical levels. NEA Northern Ireland’s annual conference for the Public Health Agency/Investing for Health featured the range of work carried out in the field of fuel poverty in Northern Ireland.
NEA representations to various Select Committees that year were endorsed in a number of areas including: the need for more rigorous energy efficiency standards and the replacement of the measures-based Thermal Comfort element of the Decent Homes Standard with challenging SAP ratings of 70 and above; further support for NEA’s area-based approach to delivery; and that Government should seek to define those eligible for social tariffs and mandate the degree of benefit. The Energy Bill that followed would provide the framework in the Energy Act 2010 to introduce a mandatory system of price subsidy.
2010 – 2011 2010 and General Election year for the Westminster Parliament. The three main political parties published their manifestos and, although the issue of unaffordable energy costs did feature, the most significant common element as the absence of any evident commitment to retain grant-funding for energy efficiency programmes. The new emphasis would be on support for Pay-as-You-Save schemes funded through some form of green infrastructure financial agency with repayments made through anticipated savings on energy bills.
NEA’s concerns about the suitability of a ‘Pay-as-You-Save scheme’ were however recognised by Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change – ‘Some people – such as the fuel-poor, and those in hard-to-heat homes lacking cavity walls – will need extra help because energy savings alone will not be enough. We intend to provide that help by refocusing the obligations on energy companies. Local authorities could also join with energy companies to reach those who live in houses that need it most’.
The regional fuel poverty forums and NEA’s ‘Fuel Poverty – A Time for Change’ seminars were oversubscribed with representatives from local authorities and other local stakeholders keen to understand the Coalition government plans on fuel poverty and NEA’s response.
The Government published its response to the consultation on the extension of the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target and a number of beneficial decisions were taken following representation from NEA, including additional support for a Super Priority Group and inclusion within this group of low-income families with young children or some form of disability.
NEA had always argued for a mandatory social tariff and in March of this year NEA welcomed the Coalition Government’s intention to legislate for Social Price Support, and to increase the amounts available for this measure. Expenditure on the Warm Home Discount scheme will total £250 million in 2011-2012 increasing to £310 million by 2014-2015.