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Energy Efficiency

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 1:37 pm on 30th June 2010.

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Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change) 1:37 pm, 30th June 2010

When I was speaking about the partners, I may have left out B&Q, which is also participating in the pilots. We certainly had a similar scope of possibilities. We knew and said clearly that primary legislation would be required. We said clearly that we would need to legislate to link the finance to the property, not to the individual, and that is what we were working through. We also believed that in order to motivate people it would be necessary to present a financial package which meant that when they paid their energy bills, they were paying back the upfront costs. So there were no upfront costs, and that is why we called it pay as you save. To that extent, the kernel of this is something that we prepared for and intended. I am delighted that the Minister is going ahead with it. There is no question about that. We will certainly support him as the plans come forward and examine them in great detail. We clearly believe that this is a way forward and we want it to work.

None the less, there are questions that the Minister must answer. In opposition, the Prime Minister spoke of an entitlement. How will an entitlement be created? How many households does the Minister expect to undertake what the Labour Government called an eco-makeover by 2020? Our best-informed target was 7 million. What is his target for 2020? I would be grateful if the Minister could make that clear when he winds up, bearing in mind that people have to opt in. This is not something that they are being given without their own participation. It is unclear whether it is £6,500 or up to £6,500. Ministers know that a single-glazed, solid-walled house would cost at least £10,000 and could be much more. Is there an upper limit to the scheme that can be accommodated in the payback plans, and how many years would it take to pay back if that kind of money is being provided?

That brings me to fuel poverty. The Minister talked a lot about helping vulnerable people, but there was little mention of any concrete action to tackle fuel poverty. Warm Front, the Labour Government's scheme for the fuel-poor, helped more than 2 million vulnerable households across England from June 2000, including 500,000 households in the last two years alone. It provides grants of up to £3,500, or up to £6,000 for those off the gas grid. Do the Government intend to scrap grant payments for central heating and insulation? I hope the Minister will be able to give us a precise answer to that question today. What evidence does he have that people in poorer households will be able to get help with insulation and improved heating under his green deal?

National Energy Action is sceptical. It has seen the details of the Government's scheme and it says:

"The overwhelming majority of fuel-poor households currently underheat their homes and the beneficial effects of energy efficiency improvements would generally be in the form of a warmer dwelling rather than in financial savings. NEA is deeply concerned about how these people would be expected to service loan repayments, let alone gain access to loans at commercial interest rates given their often precarious financial circumstances."

The Minister will say, "But they are not loans." But somebody has to put the money up front, albeit that it is the energy companies, and somebody has to pay back, so we must know what will happen to the most vulnerable people. How many pensioners and poor families does he think will be able to take out the green deal?

We have discussed energy efficiency in the context of reducing the energy used by better insulation. But climate change dictates that we not only reduce our use, but decarbonise what we do use. That is a much more comprehensive strategy.

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