Why are hundreds of households in Preston not benefiting from a scheme to help people at risk of fuel poverty?
Hundreds fewer households in Preston are benefiting from a government scheme to help people save money on their heating bills and reduce carbon emissions, figures show.
The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) aims to help people at risk of fuel poverty by making energy firms install heat-saving measures such as insulation and more efficient boilers.
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy data shows that 7,317 homes in Preston have had improvements made since the scheme began in 2013.
But just 218 additional homes benefited from the project in 2018-19, compared to 977 in 2016-17, the earliest year with comparable data.
A recent parliamentary report said that funding for ECO had halved in recent years, from an original budget of £1.3 billion per year to just £640 million.
David Weatherall, head of policy at the Energy Saving Trust, which promotes energy effiency, said England suffered from a lack of taxpayer-funded support for home energy efficiency, despite existing schemes in other UK nations.
He said: “We’re very concerned about the low rate of installation of energy efficiency measures in homes.
There needs to be a major infrastructure investment in English homes to support energy efficiency, going well beyond the current scale of ECO.”
The slowing pace of uptake in Preston is reflected across Britain, where 146,348 homes had measures installed in 2018-19 – which is 36 per cent fewer than two years earlier.
The most common upgrades under ECO in Britain are for cavity wall insulation (35 per cent), loft insulation (23 per cent) and boiler upgrades (22 per cent).
Jessica Ralston, from industry body the Sustainable Energy Association, said: “Energy efficiency should be a priority for the Government moving forwards.
It is the first essential step in reducing carbon emissions from our buildings, and can make living and work spaces warmer and more comfortable, and reduce consumers’ energy bills.”
A BEIS spokesman said: “We’ve shifted the focus of the ECO scheme to ensure it is now entirely focused on helping the poorest out of fuel poverty.
“Support for low-income households has increased from £310 million a year in 2015 to £640 million a year up to 2022. “