Energy Company Obligation — [Nadine Dorries in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:09 pm on 11th March 2014.

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Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change 4:09 pm, 11th March 2014

I think we are talking slightly at cross purposes. Let me correct the idea that the ECO target has been obliterated, killed or put to bed, as anyone who listens to the Opposition could be forgiven for believing. The fact is that ECO has not reduced certainty; it has increased it. Labour’s CERT programme was year on year. It ran for 12 months, and was then extended for another 12 months. It was a hand-to-mouth programme. ECO now offers unprecedented transparency and long-term certainty for the insulation industry because we have extended it and guaranteed it up to 2017.

We have not simply stretched the target from 2015 to 2017. From 2013 to March 2015—27 months—we expect to deliver a saving through the scheme of around 14 megatonnes of carbon. In the period April 2015 to March 2017, to which we have extended the scheme, an additional 12.4 megatonnes will be saved, a cumulative total of 26.4 megatonnes, not 14 megatonnes. It is wrong to say that we have not extended ECO or that we are not offering long-term certainty against which companies in the supply chain can invest and set their business model.

We have given a clear message to companies in the supply chain that we cannot simply install the measures regardless of cost. We cannot reach our ambition to install solid-wall insulation at current prices, which is why we are trying to create a competitive market and to introduce new private sources of finance. We are trying to introduce greater competition and innovation to drive down the cost of the measures.

Although it is very early days for the green deal and ECO market, we are seeing real pressure on costs, not from the big energy companies but from the disruptive new entrants—the small and medium-sized enterprises, family business and entrepreneurs that are coming into the market. We should celebrate the fact that prices for solid-wall insulation are coming down. I have seen companies that are not only bringing down the cost of these measures but increasing the quality of the product, and the quality and choice of the offer to consumers. [Interruption.] The fact is that I have seen a lot of solid-wall insulation where what people end up with is homes that look like they have been airlifted from East Germany. The people who do it take out all the character and just put on some uniform fascia. In fact, what people increasingly want is choice. They do not want to see character obliterated from their home. They want to see improvements. I am glad to see that we are getting that sort of innovation into the scheme.

I understand where the Opposition are coming from in their desire to retrofit homes. I understand their ambition to improve the efficiency, warmth and comfort of homes, but unless they can cost that out and be honest with the electorate about how much it will cost and how much of the burden will fall on the fuel-poor and on hard-working families, they are just a pressure group; they are not worthy of being considered the Government. We are making those choices and laying out the whole picture for the electorate. We have to balance the costs to hard-working families with the benefits to the few that will receive ECO.