In response to the announcement that VAT was to be levied on domestic fuel, NEA called for a major programme of capital investment in energy efficiency, funded through revenues raised by the introduction of VAT.
After years of campaigning, NEA succeeded in persuading Government to abolish the client contribution in HEES and, following NEA’s call for increased investment in HEES, the 1993 Budget confirmed that funding was to be doubled to £70 million for 1994/95. The Budget Statement also extended the eligibility criteria for HEES to include all pensioners, a move which NEA cautioned might lead to more affluent households accessing the scheme. Ironically these concerns proved largely unfounded since the Government failed to implement the second phase of VAT on domestic fuel and promptly removed wider eligibility.
In recognition of NEA’s achievements, a reception at 12 Downing Street was hosted by the Government Chief Whip and attended by the Prime Minister, several Cabinet Ministers, MPs and members of the business community. NEA’s partnership with the business community was further strengthened in January 1994 when Midlands Electricity donated £500,000 to NEA from the interest gained on advance payments from customers seeking to avoid VAT on fuel. This was to be the start of a unique and long-running partnership between the two organisations. Midlands Electricity was eventually taken over by Npower and E.ON bought Powergen.
During this time East Midlands Electricity (then Powergen) funded much of NEA’s special projects work in Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Lincolnshire and Mansfield. The highlight of Conservenergy Week during this year was a visit by HRH The Prince of Wales, to pensioners Frank and Peggy Honour in their Camden home, to see the benefits of energy efficiency, followed by a reception for NEA’s Business Supporters in a community centre that had been improved through a grant from London Electricity.
By 1995/96 the budget for HEES had risen to £100 million. Support for NEA from the business sector continued to grow, with around 50 companies providing funding for the charity’s work. The number of staff employed by NEA had risen from ten in 1986 to more than fifty in 1996. Unfortunately, the celebration of the 2 millionth home to be assisted by NEA member organisations, in November 1995, was marred by announcement of the Government’s intention to reduce funding for HEES by £31 million, from April 1996. This was a potentially devastating blow for the energy efficiency industry, putting around 1,000 jobs at risk and drastically reducing the number of vulnerable people to be helped.