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Uncertainty over energy bills puts people off govt schemes

Survey shows that Green Deal and ECO suffer due to confusion, complexity

decc-logoThe complexity of government energy efficiency programmes and confusion about their impact on energy bills is putting people off schemes such as the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO), it has been found.

A Freedom of Information request made to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has found that focus groups questioned by the government have reported a number of concerns about the initiatives.

The Green Deal scheme was launched to help people have energy-efficiency measures installed in their homes through a government loan, which is then paid back through energy bills, while the ECO requires energy companies to help vulnerable and low-income families to install similar measures.

However, the most recent government survey has found that there is a great deal of consternation among the public about what the schemes actually entail, how people will benefit from them, and the exact impact they will have on energy bills.

Multiple concerns

Focus groups containing older people, families and households with disabilities and long-term health conditions were asked about their experience of cold homes and rising fuel bills, as well as their perceptions of the Green Deal and ECO.

Respondents reported that they are struggling to heat their homes and concerned about taking on another financial commitment in the form of the Green Deal, while the complexity of the ECO is also off-putting.

Meanwhile, a study carried out last year to gauge how the schemes would be accepted resulted in a mixed response to both the Green Deal and the ECO.

Although some local authorities recognised the strategic benefits, others noted the operational challenges and some made practical recommendations for delivery.

Mixed reaction

“The research found general acceptance of the pay-as-you-save principle behind the Green Deal. However, there was less enthusiasm in the private rented sector, where tenants were reluctant to participate in a pay-as-you-save mechanism to improve the energy efficiency of their landlord’s property,” the DECC stated in response to the Freedom of Information request.

“The public underlined the importance of high standards of work, good communications and local businesses’ involvement in delivering the Green Deal.”

The DECC also revealed that it has two other research projects in the pipeline, including ‘Smart for all’ follow-up research to improve the DECC’s understanding of the longer-term experience of smart meters among low-income and vulnerable customers, and a focus group set up to better understand older people’s attitudes to investing Winter Fuel Payments in energy-saving home improvements.

The results of both research projects are set to be published in the near future, the DECC noted.