New challenges to new solutions 1996-1999
In 1996/97 NEA continued to focus on solutions to problems associated with energy inefficient housing: defining and researching the scale of fuel poverty; identifying good practice in tackling it; and demonstrating how economic, social and environmental objectives could be reconciled through improved energy efficiency. NEA fulfilled an ambitious work programme and successfully raised over £2 million in funding from Government and the business community.
The demand for NEA’s training services continued to grow. More than 6,500 people were now qualified through the NEA/City and Guilds Energy Awareness course and over 800 had National Vocational Qualifications in practical energy efficiency skills. An energy efficiency award with the Scout Association was taken up by more than 4,000 local scout groups and The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, Leader of the Opposition, visited a local primary school as part of the Conservenergy Campaign in 1996 to highlight NEA’s education initiatives.
In July 1997 further changes to HEES were implemented. Revisions allowed HEES clients wider choice from a greater range of measures, but limited grant-aid to a single major measure per household, with energy advice included in an additional measures package.
“It is important to recognise that work such as this enhancement of the fabric of village halls and increased community awareness of energy efficiency issues in Devon and Cornwall, is the result of a strong partnership approach. Local communities, local government, charities and voluntary bodies are all involved.”
David Curry, Former Minister of State
These changes had been approved by the outgoing Conservative Government and their effects were to be monitored before any decisions about the future of the scheme would be taken by the recently elected Labour administration.
Local authorities continued to be a major focus for NEA, and Partnerships For Warmth seminars were attended by over 400 local authority and voluntary sector personnel. The programme aimed to inform participants about a range of issues including the Home Energy Conservation Act, HEES, and the impact of competition in fuel supply.
After almost two decades of campaigning on fuel poverty issues, there was finally official and political recognition of the existence and extent of fuel poverty. Using data collected from the English House Condition Survey, the Government confirmed NEA’s view that 30% of all households were fuel poor. The survey showed that almost 7 million households in England alone could be categorised as fuel poor with 2.6 million in severe or extreme fuel poverty.
In July 1998, as part of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, £150 million extra funding for HEES, or its successor scheme, was announced, providing resources of £125 million in 2000-2001 and £175 million in 2001-2002. It was anticipated that further changes to the scheme would be introduced from April 2000. In the event, a greatly improved New HEES became operational from June 2000.
NEA continued to develop initiatives to demonstrate links between fuel poverty and ill health. A research and practical intervention programme, funded by the National Lottery Charities Board, began in 1999 to examine the incidence of cold-related illness in fuel-poor households, and the potential for insulation and heating improvements to bring health benefits. This was the start of more sharply focused research within NEA and also the establishment of a specialist research department.
At the same time, NEA’s campaigning activities were being stepped up and Conservenergy Week was re-launched in 1998 as Warm Homes Week, funded by BG plc through BG Foundation. The campaign involved 118 MPs from all major political parties, including twenty
Government Ministers. NEA was also involved in the re-launch of the Warm Homes Group in the House of Commons and NEA was invited to provide the Secretariat to the Parliamentary Warm Homes Group, which in 2010 was relaunched as the Parliamentary Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency Group, still supported by NEA.