This was a major year of change and exciting opportunity for NEA. Since the changes in sources of revenue as a result of public sector funding arrangements had taken place in 2011, the charity had restructured and stabilised delivery. Then in November 2014 a new opportunity arose and from then until the end of the financial year we worked, in consultation with Ofgem, to design a £26.2m programme to ensure that some of those households that could potentially have benefited from the CESP scheme had all targets been met could have access to affordable warmth. This was the establishment of the Health and Innovation programme.
The charity’s campaigning activities were focused on influencing commitments from the political parties in the run up to the general election. Our own Manifesto for Warmth, launched on Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, set out the case for investing greater levels of public funds and focusing energy company obligations on energy saving schemes to address fuel poverty. We were successful in securing a number of commitments from the main parties and Government’s new Fuel Poverty Targets for England were enshrined in law with a clear set of principles and priorities for the next 15 years.
Our work in parliament helped to establish a new statutory commitment for minimum energy efficiency ratings in fuel poor homes in England, accompanied by the first fuel poverty strategy for 13 years and the extension of the Energy Company Obligation to 2017.
Along with the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group we highlighted how energy efficiency programmes are failing to benefit off-gas and rural households, helping to secure an expansion of the Fuel Poverty Gas Network Extension Scheme which aimed to connect 80,000 households to the gas grid over the next eight years; and a new £25m fund for first time central heating measures.
In Northern Ireland our Energy Justice Campaign helped to ensure continuity of funding to tackle fuel poverty under the NISEP programme which meant approximately £6.5 million resources were made available in 2016-17 which would not otherwise have been available.
And in Wales we helped secure an inquiry into energy efficiency and fuel poverty by the Wales Assembly Environment Select Committee, highlighting the inadequacy of the existing strategy and the need for additional resources resulting in a consultation in 2015 into energy efficiency by the Wales Assembly Government.
In terms of major projects, we launched one of our largest initiatives to date – the Community Action Partnership – which was delivered in partnership with British Gas and councils in eight locations in England and Wales and positively impacted on 800,000 people through bespoke packages of interventions to help take individuals out of fuel poverty.