The Millennium and beyond
The major campaigning success of the Millennium year was the passing of the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000. As part of the Steering Group for the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Bill, NEA assisted in the progress of this revised Private Members Bill, which received Royal Assent in November 2000.
Private Members Bills are rarely successful in reaching the Statute Books but enormous levels of support in the House of Commons, where some 460 MPs signed a motion endorsing the provisions of the Bill, eventually led to the successful completion of all Commons stages.
During the autumn, the Bill faced further scrutiny in the Lords by the powerful Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee and NEA’s Honorary Officers, Lord Ezra, Lord Newton and Baroness Hilton played an important role during this final critical stage before becoming law.
The Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000 required the Westminster Government and the National Assembly for Wales to draw up and implement a strategy to eliminate fuel poverty within a period of no more than 15 years. This is undoubtedly the single most important outcome of NEA’s campaigning work.
NEA’s role in relation to New HEES concentrated on involving a wider audience and the effective integration of New HEES with other schemes. To facilitate this, NEA launched a programme of bi-monthly Fuel Poverty Forums in ten regions throughout England and Wales following the start of New HEES in June 2000. The Wales Fuel Poverty Forum was delivered by NEA Wales, a newly established office created in response to the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales and devolution of responsibility for fuel poverty issues.
Support from the National Assembly enabled NEA to appoint a Director for Wales in September 2000 to raise the profile of NEA more widely in the Principality following the completion of several local energy efficiency projects.
NEA Northern Ireland, which was established in 1994, also played an important role in the consultation process for the original Domestic Energy Efficiency Scheme (DEES) in Northern Ireland and for DEES 11 which started in 2001.
In addition to contributing to the consultation process relating to the New HEES programme, NEA also commented extensively on Social Action Plan proposals from Ofgem; proposals from the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions on future arrangements for Energy Efficiency Standards of Performance (which became the Energy Efficiency Commitment); and submitted evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Report on Energy Efficiency.
In 2001, NEA celebrated the insulation of the 4 millionth home in the UK by NEA member organisations, an achievement marked at a reception in London hosted by the Rt Hon Alan Milburn MP, Secretary of State for Health. As the health benefits of warm homes became increasingly recognised at national and local government level, NEA continued a major initiative funded by npower, following on from a successful partnership with its predecessor Midlands Electricity. Health Through Warmth is a partnership between NEA, npower and the NHS Executive, that aims to tackle the problems of ill health associated with energy inefficient housing. The initiative was launched in July 2000 as a pilot in the West Midlands and is now an award-winning scheme with partnerships operating in 16 areas of England and Wales.
Increasing political interest in fuel poverty resulted in increased resources being made available to tackle the problem. Funding for HEES was increased to more than £300 million for the two years 2000-2002. The Energy Efficiency Standards of Performance (EESoP) scheme was also extended to provide more than £100 million for energy efficiency schemes, 65% of which had to be spent on the homes of low-income and other disadvantaged households. In response to the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act, the Government made a commitment to eradicate fuel poverty and the Fuel Poverty Strategy Consultation Paper was the focus of a Fuel Poverty Summit, organized by NEA and the Parliamentary Warm Homes Group in March 2001.
“Fuel poverty is a terrible problem faced by too many of our vulnerable citizens today. Its effects are seen in ill health and social exclusion, particularly among older people. NEA can feel justifiably proud of the work it has done in highlighting this problem and helping those households in need.”
The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister, 2000