Completion of major fuel poverty alleviation project

Figure 2: Thermal image of Wimpey No Fine system built homes. "A" has no insulation and "B" has external wall cladding. Homes like "A" are to be targeted under ECO using measures like "B" has.Thermal image – “A” has no insulation and “B” has external wall insulation.

The National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) in partnership with South Tyneside Homes and Homes for Northumberland has undertaken a major fuel poverty alleviation programme of energy efficiency improvements on over 300 socially rented hard-to-heat properties.

The £3.84 million European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)* collaborative project, has installed low carbon and renewable energy technologies and systems to improve the housing stock in the region and regenerate off-gas or non-traditional construction properties. Solutions included external wall cladding, low energy lighting, replacement doors and windows, loft insulation, TRVs, improvements to heating and domestic hot water systems, and enabling works for photovoltaic systems.

As part of the project, the impact and effectiveness of the modifications and improvements made to the different types of housing stock have been monitored and analysed by Decerna.

Key Improvements are:

  • Significant decreases in fuel bills
  • Major improvement in tenant satisfaction with homes
  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions

The key message of this project is that energy efficiency and renewable energy are a major weapon in the fight against fuel poverty. The same solutions can reduce fuel poverty and reduce human induced climate change.

In addition to the work included in this report, a unique SME capacity building programme was delivered. Through the project, over 95 regional SMEs were supported to access tailored support and assistance to expand or diversify their business capabilities within the low carbon sector.  By combining this with the retrofit programme, SMEs were able to visit the retrofit works as they were delivered allowing them a unique insight into the installation and use of these low carbon and renewable technologies, over 200 individuals in north east SMEs were supported with skills development.

Full details of this project are available in the end of project report at:

For more information please email:

Further information on fuel poverty can be found in the following blog posts:

* The European Regional Development Fund exists to reduce economic disparities within and between member states by supporting economic regeneration and safeguarding jobs. Since 2000, England alone has benefited from more than €5bn of funding, with a further €3.2 billion being invested between 2007 and 2013 in local projects around the country. From 2014 to 2020 a further €6.2 billion will be invested in England, with €0.54 billion targeted at the North East of England.


How the green levies help reduce fuel poverty

There has been a large amount in the media recently over the “green levies” on fuel bills, or as some refer to them, the “green taxes”. On Wednesday the 23rd October this became more prominent politically after an announcement in Prime Minister’s Questions to review them. However, there is a large amount of misunderstanding and misinformation regarding these levies.

The first question is what percentage of the average bill is actually due to these levies? The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has calculated the energy bill split, which is shown in Figure 1. As can be seen, the “green levies” actually make up a small amount of the bill [1].

UK average dual fuel breakdown from [1]Figure 1: UK average dual fuel breakdown from [1]
However, an important question to ask is; what are these levies actually for? They are split up into three main parts:

  • Fuel poverty alleviation measures (£61 a year – 4.8% of an average dual fuel bill)
  • Renewable Energy Support (£37 a year – 2.9% of an average dual fuel bill)
  • Climate Change Policies (£13 a year – 1% of an average dual fuel bill)

With the figures of how much these measures cost, now let’s look in more detail at each of them.

Fuel poverty alleviation measures (£61)

The issue which is missed in most of the media is that the energy efficiency parts of the bills are spent on lifting people out of fuel poverty. This £61 is spent on three different measures:

  • Warm Home Discount (£11 a year – 0.9% of an average dual fuel bill)
  • Smart Metering and Better Billing (£3 a year – 0.2% of an average duel fuel bill)
  • ECO Energy Efficiency Scheme (£48 a year – 3.8% of an average dual fuel bill)

Warm Home Discount Scheme

This is for elderly people who have a low income. Specifically, it is for people who are:

  • 75 or over and getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (even if you get Savings Credit)
  • Under 75 and only getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (you won’t qualify if you also get Savings Credit)

This discount can be up to £135 on bills. The removal of this £11 on everyone’s bills would mean pensioners on low incomes would be pushed further into fuel poverty. More information on the shceme can be found here: The Warm Home Discount scheme page on

Smart Metering and Better Billing

The £3 that the average user pays towards the energy companies a year for Smart Metering and Better Billing is spent on the roll out of smart meters, which will be completed by 2020.

The ideas behind this are that they will allow more accurate bills, and also allow people to understand how they are using energy in their own home with more clarity, and so save energy. It is intended to help with reducing fuel poverty, but also it will help the electrical networks through giving a better picture of where energy is being used and where it is not.

ECO Energy Efficiency Scheme

This is the major part of the “green tariffs” which are opposed by certain parts of the media. The idea of ECO is to insulate the homes of those in the worst fuel poverty. It replaced the CERT and CESP schemes which insulated many homes across the UK. If you had free cavity wall insulation and loft insulation given to you in the past few years, this is how it was funded.

The breakdown of measures provided by CESP is given below (taken from [2])

Table 1: Measures given out by CESP
Measure Type Measure Number of measures
Insulation Loft insulation 23,503
Cavity wall insulation 3,000
Solid wall insulation (internal) 5,002
Solid wall insulation (external) 75,255
Draught proofing 13,010
Glazing 21,779
Flat-roof insulation 1,791
Under-floor insulation 151
Heating Replacement boiler 42,898
Heating controls provided with a new heating system 60,016
Fuel switching 11,066
District Heating District heating (connection to) 6,459
District heating (upgrade) 11,247
District heating meter for individual house billing 6,026
Microgeneration Heat Pump 594
Solar Water Heater 485
Photovoltaic panel 11,546
Behaviour Home energy advice package 94
Total 293,922

The breakdown of measures from CERT are given in [3]. These covered energy heating, lighting and energy efficient appliances. The energy companies were allowed to decide how to spend the money, but it had to result in saving energy, and over 40% had to go to priority groups (pensioners and those on particular benefits). The insulation measures were:

Table 2: The insulation measures given out from CERT - please note there were many other measures as well
Cavity wall insulation 2,568,870
Professional loft insulation 3,897,324
DIY loft insulation (m2) 112,850,996
Solid wall insulation 58,916
Draught proofing 23,986
Window glazing (m2) 34,590,263
Hot water tank jackets 436,958
Radiator panels (m2) 259,851
Flat roof insulation 701
Fuel switching 108,516
Shower regulators 9,653,441
Replacement boilers 31,986
Heating controls 1,454,336
Communal heating 92

Other measures included 303 million light bulbs, which OFGEM stopped on the 1st of January 2010 over concerns because it was not clear whether they were being used and research suggested enough had been distributed to satisfy demand. Further measures included renewable energy systems and energy efficient appliances.

With ECO, the government now feels that enough of the “easy” to insulate homes have been improved. There are many homes which are more difficult to insulate, such as those with solid walls and no cavities. ECO is designed to help those in “hard to treat” homes. The energy companies are obligated to use this money to “provide measures which improve the ability of low income and vulnerable households”, ie. People in fuel poverty.

An example of these improvements can be seen in Figure 2 below taken from [4]. These show the difference between a typical post war system built house without insulation, and the next door neighbour which has external wall insulation. As can be seen, the loss of heat from house B is significantly reduced**.


Figure 2: Thermal image of Wimpey No Fine system built homes. "A" has no insulation and "B" has external wall cladding. Homes like "A" are to be targeted under ECO using measures like "B" has.Figure 2: Thermal image of Wimpey No Fine system built homes. “A” has no insulation and “B” has external wall cladding. Homes like “A” are to be targeted under ECO using measures like “B” has.

Renewable Energy Incentives (£37)

  • Feed in Tariffs (£7 a year – 0.6% of the average dual fuel bill)
  • Renewables Obligation (£30 a year – 2.4% of the average duel fuel bill)

Feed in Tariff

Obviously, the main driver for these is to tackle climate change, but that is another subject for another blog. The Feed in Tariff has led to a major increase in jobs in the UK, all for (on average) £7 a year per household. Destroying the Feed in Tariff so save £7 a year per household would lead to massive redundancies in the domestic renewable energy installer market – as well as the supporting industries. Destroying businesses and encouraging redundancies will clearly throw more families into poverty.

An important point which is not considered when criticising the Feed in Tariff is that many housing associations have used the Feed in Tariff to allow them to roll out renewable energy to residents. Many social housing areas in the North East of England now have solar panels, which can reduce residents energy bills by £65* a year. This is an example of how the Feed in Tariff is used to reduce fuel poverty. Housing Associations involved in such schemes include South Tyneside Homes, Your Homes Newcastle and South Tyneside Homes.

Renewables Obligation

Moving onto the Renewable Obligation, increasing renewables will also insulate the UK against the ever increasing wholesale costs of fossil fuels. This is one of the economic arguments for renewable energy.

Carbon Taxes (£13)

£13 a year from the average bill go to actual taxes on carbon. These go to the European Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and the Carbon Floor Price. Tackling climate change is vitally important, but the purpose of this blog is not to discuss these issues, it is to discuss how “green levies” are spent. Approximately £1 a month per household goes to actual real carbon taxes.


The majority of Green Levies go to schemes to reduce fuel poverty. By removing this funding, those who are most vulnerable will have no support to improve their homes and lift them out of fuel poverty. Renewable Energy funding will help insulate the UK against future wholesale gas prices, and is also used by housing associations to fund schemes to lift residents out of fuel poverty. The only real “green tax” is the £13 which goes to the EU ETS and Carbon Floor Price. Removing that won’t really help with bills.

Essentially, removing the “green levies” component of energy bills will remove assistance for those in fuel poverty.

For more information on hard to treat homes and fuel poverty, please see: ERDF Social Housing Energy Management Final Project Report

Works Cited

[1] Department of Energy and Climate Change, Estimated impacts of energy and climate change policies on energy prices and bills, London: UK Government, 2012.
[2] OFGEM e-serve, Community Energy Saving Program Update, London: UK Government, 2013.
[3] OFGEM e-serve, The final report of the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) 2008-2012, London: UK Government, 2013.
[4] Decerna, ERDF Social Housing Energy Management Project – Final Project Report,  Blyth: National Renewable Energy Centre, 25th October 2013


[*] This is based on a price of £ 0.146057/kWh for electricity, based on data from The energy yield of a photovoltaic system pointing south at an incline of 35° based in Newcastle is 902 kWh/year. We assume only half this electricity is used by the resident and the rest exported.

[**] It is important to state the example below was paid for by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), not ECO, but it is a good image of the type of work ECO is designed for.

Solar Energy UK

Solar Energy UK logo
Nick Davies from Decerna will be speaking at Solar Energy UK on the 10th of October, giving a seminar on the integration of photovoltaic and solar thermal systems with other technologies. Based on experience and independent testing results, Nick will give an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of current “add-on” technologies on the market for these systems.

Solar Energy UK exhibition (formerly Solar Power UK) is the essential solar networking platform in the UK.  By bringing together the entire industry associated with PV, solar businesses have the opportunity to make the changes necessary to drive the industry forward and ensure its sustainability for the future. In 2012, over 4700 visitors and 181 exhibitors from across the globe attended Solar Power UK making it the largest solar dedicated event in the UK. Now in its fourth year, Solar Energy UK 2013 is the latest in a series of events brought to the UK’s industry by Solar Media Ltd. The event will expand to include a Distributed Energy Zone to reflect all sectors committed to the local generation, storage, use and transmission of energy. Energy storage products are included among these solutions making this event.

Nick will be speaking in the Technology Theater area of Solar Energy UK on Thursday the 10th of October from 10.45am to 12.15pm, his seminar is titled “Innovative technologies – can they improve solar performance in housing stock?”. Other organisations giving seminars in the Technology Theatre over the three days include the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Solar Trade Association and the MCS PV Working Group.

For more details on Solar Energy UK, including a full detailed seminar timetable, please check the Solar Energy UK website