Suppliers should be stripped of responsibility for carrying out household energy efficiency improvements, a government adviser has said.
Laura Sandys, the former Conservative MP who is chairing a review of energy data for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), told an event at Imperial College London recently that it is “not appropriate” that delivery of these measures is part of suppliers’ remit.
Under the Energy Company Obligation (Eco), larger suppliers are mandated to deliver energy efficiency improvements, which are due to become more targeted on fuel poor households under the latest round of the scheme.
Sandys said at the event, which was co-hosted by the Green Alliance and UK Energy Research Centre, that she “totally respects” some of the “amazing stuff” carried out by energy companies to tackle energy efficiency.
But while energy efficiency could still be supported via a levy on energy companies, she said suppliers are not best placed to manage fuel poverty and energy efficiency schemes.
Action to tackle energy efficiency could instead be managed separately in a “much more co-ordinated programme”, she said: “It would possibly be better for that money to be in local authorities and housing associations who are much closer to housing issues than possibly the energy companies.”
Overall, she said the energy sector is being asked to do too much to address wider issues of inequality, which should be the preserve of public policy.
Sandys also said it must be an “absolute priority” that the increased new homes the government wants to see are built to a higher standard of energy efficiency, noting that there are properties in her former constituency of Margate that “you wouldn’t want to keep a dog in”.
“There is an absolute need to bear down on housing stock: we really have to ensure that we are not condemning families and particularly low-income families to homes that are extremely leaky and don’t have the highest standards.”
Sara Vaughan, political and regulatory affairs director at Eon UK, defended the “fabulous job” that her company has done delivering energy efficiency improvements.
She said: “This is a really important part of our business. Our complaint about Eco is that the government has shown insufficient ambition.
“The ambition on external wall insulation leaves a lot to be desired and has led to us having to reduce our workforce in that area. Given what the country needs to deliver in terms of energy efficiency is a really sad thing.”
Andrew Robertson, a BEIS civil servant, said that government policy needs to be “a bit better” at tackling energy efficiency, which he said would be more targeted on low income households following recent tweaks to the Eco scheme.