ACRE calls for key outcomes from Green Deal inquiry
by Chris Cowcher,

Leading rural network ACRE has called for five key outcomes from a Commons inquiry into the delivery of the Government’s energy-saving initiatives for homes.

The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee heard evidence from ACRE that the Green Deal and the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) have been hard to ‘sell’ to rural households.

ECO supports the free installation of energy efficiency measures in low-income households and areas, and in properties that are harder to treat. It works alongside the Green Deal, which allows consumers to take out loans for energy efficiency improvements in their homes.

Nick Chase, Director of Policy and Research at ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), spoke out after giving evidence based on a survey of ACRE’s Network of England’s 38 rural community councils to the Committee’s Green Deal Watching Brief inquiry.

Mr Chase said: ”Green Deal has been very hard to sell to rural households. Our recent England-wide survey has suggested that the concept of the scheme is difficult for people to understand. People are concerned about the high cost of the loan, the uncertainty of how much pay-back in energy savings they will receive and the fact that the ‘debt’ of the loan stays with the property until repaid and this could affect the resale value of the house.

“In addition, there is the issue of ‘rural pride’ with people in small communities not wanting to be identified as being in receipt of benefits in order to receive free energy-saving measures.

"The new Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is an example of rural discrimination. Currently, you cannot get a replacement boiler for heating oil or LPG under the scheme"

“There is a very real issue of trust relating to energy companies and anything they are ‘selling’ – even if it is free. ACRE’s members work as ‘trusted intermediaries’ on a wide range of issues within rural communities. Using our Network is one of the best ways of ensuring you are engaging with the people who are hardest to reach.”

ACRE is calling for five key outcomes from the Commons inquiry:

  • Greater effort should be made by energy companies to deliver considerably more measures into ‘rural obligation’ areas. Currently, 15pc of all measures must be carried out in high-deprivation rural areas.
  • Investment in established infrastructure organisations, such as ACRE, with tried and tested methods of engagement, to ensure no one is excluded from the offers.
  • Solid wall insulation must be increased considerably in rural obligation areas
  • Replacement boilers should be available for homes that are off the mains gas grid and rely on heating oil and LPG.
  • Energy companies need to look at’ whole household’ solutions - not cherry pick the easier to install measures.

Mr Chase added: “The new Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is an example of rural discrimination. Currently, you cannot get a replacement boiler for heating oil or LPG under the scheme – this excludes nearly 1.3m rural households who are off the mains gas grid. A new condensing boiler for these households is the most cost effective way of reducing energy bills by as much as 30 pc.

“Solid wall insulation has hardly been undertaken under the scheme – latest figures show that of 578 measures installed into the target rural areas, only four were for solid wall insulation.

“This reveals that energy companies are cherry picking the easiest measures to provide, such as loft insulation, and then moving on to the next house. Instead, they need to look at complete solutions for the household.”