Advertisement
Environment

Poorest will be hit hardest by plans to scrap insulation scheme, warn experts

Scrapping insulation scheme will do little to alleviate the energy crisis – while leaving poorer households paying the price, experts and charities have warned.

The poorest in society will pay “the highest price” if the government goes ahead with plans to scrap a scheme that makes low-income homes more energy efficient, experts have warned.

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is a £1bn levy on energy bills which helps to pay for installation of energy efficiency measures in low-income households, but reports in The Guardian suggest the government is looking at scrapping it to tackle rising energy costs

In April, the energy price cap is expected to rise by around £700 at the same time as new taxes are levied and inflation is driving up the costs of everyday goods

The Labour Party has suggested a windfall tax to tackle rising energy bills, but the government has expressed reluctance to take this measure, instead discussing an end to the ECO levy.

Experts have warned, however, that removing the levy would save little money – about £29 on the average bill – while jeopardising the UK’s chance to create a just transition to net zero emissions by 2050. 

Zayn Qureshi, researcher at think tank Localis, said of the reports: “Without any viable alternative to replace the ECO scheme, this seems like a bad move at the worst time when energy bills are skyrocketing, which will be affecting the poorest households the worst.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

He added that “talk of scrapping the ECO gives a strong impression that the government does not have a handle on how to tackle the urgent issue of increasing energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty”.

The UK has some of the least energy efficient homes in Europe, meaning that they take much longer to retain heat and lose heat quickly, leading to higher energy bills and fuel poverty. 

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work. With each subscription we invest every penny back into supporting the network of sellers across the UK. A subscription also means you'll never miss the weekly editions of an award-winning publication, with each issue featuring the leading voices on life, culture, politics and social activism.

Around 3.6 million households are estimated to be living in fuel poverty, according to the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, with many forced to make choices between heating and eating. 

The government has pledged to help households move towards cheaper, renewable energy via schemes such as heat pump grants, announced in 2021. 

Heat pumps, however, cannot be installed where homes are below a certain energy efficient rating, meaning that insulation must be installed first.

The Big Issue Shop

Eco-friendly gift hampers that make a positive impact

The Big Issue has collaborated with Social Stories Club to create limited edition gift hampers. Packed full of treats made by social ventures, this hamper would make the perfect gift for the festive season.

Research conducted by Localis in October showed that this could leave thousands of households in the north of England without heat pumps, relying on costly, carbon-emitting fossil fuel boilers for longer. 

Previous government measures intended to improve insulation across the country have fallen flat, with the infamous Green Homes Grant scheme closing just nine months after it opened with limited take-up. 

In light of the need to insulate more homes to reduce fuel poverty and mitigate climate impacts, Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth said talk of scrapping the ECO was “senseless”. 

Article continues below

“Cuts to funding for energy efficiency have saddled too many people with colossal energy bills,” he said. “Cruelly, this is pushing thousands into fuel poverty during the coldest months of the year. 

“Calls to further rollback cash which helps to make the poorest households warmer are not just senseless, but will cost thousands of people their jobs and keep us exposed to future global gas price hikes,” he said.

Childs was echoed by Qureshi, who said: “The poorest in our society will be paying the highest price if government doesn’t set out and stick with clear and long term policies on improving energy efficiency and helping people out of fuel poverty.”

Advertisement

Support your local vendor

Want to buy a copy of the magazine? We have over 1,200 Big Issue vendors in the UK. Each vendor buys a copy of the mag for £1.50 and sells it for £3, keeping the difference. Visit our interactive map to find your nearest vendor and support them today!

Recommended for you

Read All
The government has rejected calls to give the public more access to the English countryside
Right to roam

The government has rejected calls to give the public more access to the English countryside

New records were set in 2021 for rising sea levels, greenhouse gas and ocean heat
Climate crisis

New records were set in 2021 for rising sea levels, greenhouse gas and ocean heat

Exclusive: The UK's rarest and most threatened wildlife sites are not being protected properly
Nature conservation

Exclusive: The UK's rarest and most threatened wildlife sites are not being protected properly

Why you should count your plastic waste to help fight pollution
Plastic pollution

Why you should count your plastic waste to help fight pollution

Most Popular

Read All
The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who
1.

The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who

Boris Johnson set to scrap plan to let workers keep tips despite admitting minimum wage isn’t enough to live on
2.

Boris Johnson set to scrap plan to let workers keep tips despite admitting minimum wage isn’t enough to live on

Life On Mars sequel has ‘a lot of travelling in time and car chases’, John Simm reveals
3.

Life On Mars sequel has ‘a lot of travelling in time and car chases’, John Simm reveals

The controversial new laws rushed through by the government this week
4.

The controversial new laws rushed through by the government this week

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.