It is “illogical” that distribution network operators (DNOs) should not be expected to help fund the installation of energy efficiency measures for low-income households, the chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust has told MPs.

Under cross-examination during yesterday’s (26 February) opening hearing of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee inquiry into energy efficiency, Philip Sellwood said it makes sense for these companies to become involved as part of their transformation into distribution system operators (DSOs).

“If we are to expect DNOs to become DSOs, it would seem illogical that they shouldn’t be a part of the landscape of funding energy efficiency,” he remarked.

Sellwood acknowledged that larger suppliers, which are obliged to deliver the ECO energy efficiency programme for low-income households, are delivering “very cost effective programmes”.

But he said these companies alone cannot be relied on to tackle the backlog of energy efficiency measures required: “We can’t do that through a national scheme with the energy companies alone. We need to work with health and social services and champions on the ground.”

Peter Smith, director of policy and research at fuel poverty campaign National Energy Action, said poor working households are not being adequately catered for under the existing arrangements.

However, he warned against rushing into a hasty reform of the programme: “Just transferring it from one party to another would be fraught with risk. We are very reluctant to reform it without a clear idea of what can replace it.”

Dhara Vyas, head of future energy services at Citizens Advice, said the move from a supplier-only obligation could help to target vulnerable customers living in rural communities.

Sellwood also criticised the government’s decision to scrap its telephone-only energy efficiency advice service – the Energy Saving Advice Service – and replace it with in an online alternative: “For the first time in 25 years there is no national energy advice system in England, no tailored personalised advice. To remove that service when we need it most is remiss.”

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