Hundreds of low-income households in Bristol missed out on having crucial energy-efficiency measures installed in their homes last year just as the fuel poverty crisis hit, it can be revealed.
New official data shows that 2022 was the worst year on record for the Government’s main programme for insulating poorer people’s homes, despite pleas from Metro Mayor Dan Norris to ramp up the work as energy bills rocketed.
Installations under the ‘Energy Company Obligation’ scheme – which requires energy suppliers to install energy efficiency measures like double glazing in low-income and ‘fuel poor’ homes – fell by 59%, with hundreds of Bristol’s poorer families thought to have missed out.
Experts say this is because of ministers’ poorly managed transition to a new version of the scheme, with repeated delays to the passing of legislation required for the new version leaving a four-month period of retrofit inactivity between July and October – just as the energy price crisis began to bite.
Now Metro Mayor Dan Norris warns there is serious danger of the same thing happening again this year, as the Government again introduces yet another version of the scheme. The Government originally said ‘ECO+’ would be ready to launch at the start of this month, but industry figures say they are still waiting on guidance on how the scheme will work and for necessary legislation to be laid in Parliament.
Mr Norris warned that with the scheme unlikely to be launched until late summer, or even early autumn, this winter could as “tough as the last” for poorer Bristol homes. “If the Government continues stalling on really, really vital retrofit measures, next winter will be as tough as the last for poorer Bristolians, and fuel poverty will get worse, not better”, he said.

The latest challenges with the ECO scheme reflect a lack of effective national retrofit policies, says Mayor Dan Norris, who has long called for a major national insulation programme to complement the West of England’s own retrofitting programme.
He pointed to the Government’s botched boiler upgrade scheme where only a third of its £450m annual budget has been spent and the many abortive schemes from ministers – including the 2020 Green Homes Grant, scrapped after six months – over the past 13 years.
As part of his flagship £60 million Green Recovery fund, Metro Mayor Dan Norris has brought forward over £5 million – and recently secured over £12 million – to begin to start retrofitting some of the 250,000 homes in need of energy improvements across Bristol, and the wider West of England region.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “To fix the fuel poverty crisis for good, fixing the nation’s leaky homes, like we are in the West of England, will be crucial. From Georgian townhouses, to Victorian terraces, my West of England Mayoral Combined Authority is supporting retrofit as the best long-term solution to cut bills for local people for good. But we cannot fix this crisis alone. We need central government to play its part, and that means reversing its disastrous record on heating homes – energy efficiency rates are now 20 times lower than under the last Labour government. That in turn means dropping the boom-bust policymaking and matching our ambition by coming forward with a proper plan to end the delays, and insulate the homes we need at pace – to complement our retrofitting programme here in the West of England.”

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