Claire Perry has promised to “turbocharge” the smart meter rollout and target the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme more closely on fuel poor households.

Speaking in a parliamentary debate last Thursday (8 March) on the clean growth strategy (CGS), the energy and climate minister said the government would be publishing a consultation on the future of ECO “shortly”.

She said the scheme to tackle greenhouse gas emission from homes, which was extended until 2028 in the CGS last year, would “pivot” to tackling fuel poverty.

Perry said: “I want ECO to be targeted at the people who need it most. They may not be the ones who are currently in the frame; they may not be known. We know that local authorities know where they are, so we want to target the ECO system much more at those who need it.”

The minister also told MPs during the debate, the first held in parliament to discuss the CGS, that she will attempt to “turbocharge the smart meters roll-out later this year”.

“I think we are on the cusp of something really exciting with smart meters,” she said.

Meanwhile  Alan Whitehead, shadow minister for energy, said the level of funding committed to ECO was insufficient to upgrade the nation’s older and less fuel efficient homes.

He said: “Even if ECO is extended out to 2028, at its present level of funding that will nowhere near get us to the numbers that we need to be energy efficient. There are still seven million homes out there—the non-cavity wall and hard-to-treat homes—that have a far higher unit cost of treatment than what we might call the lower-hanging fruit of loft and wall insulations.

“Making our treatments much more efficient—by doing them on an area basis, for example—would allow us to get much closer to our target for the same money.”

Whitehead also said the government could not continue to rely on industry levies to deliver its social and environmental energy policy goals.

He said: “When it comes to funding the changes it is extremely unlikely that we will be able to do it by heaping obligation on obligation in customers’ energy bills. There is a raft of such levies, and the number is increasing.”

Whitehead also called for the cap on private landlords’ contributions to energy efficiency upgrades to be doubled to £5,000 per property.

Conservative backbench MP Antoinette Sandbach, who sponsored the debate, called for the government to require that homes’ energy efficiency be considered as part of the criteria for assessing mortgage affordability.

She said introducing this requirement would enable those buying the typical home with an A-rated Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to borrow £11,500 more than the buyer of a G-rated property.

Sandbach, who is a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee, said: “This would give real value when looking at the EPC rating for the future. Merely including the energy efficiency measures in affordability calculations would be enough to drive people towards more energy-efficient homes even if buyers do not borrow extra money.”