New Energy Company Obligations (ECO) scheme would no longer provide financial assistance for low-income homeowners who need boiler repairs, if plans are to push through.
The New Scheme
The new ECO scheme supports different ways to save energy, including more energy efficient home heating options like gas heating. Many low income households in Dorset rely on oil heating to keep them warm in the winter season, but the new scheme would no longer cover them with financial support should they need boiler repairs, which is a huge concern for many households. On the other hand, households using gas heating may still be eligible for financial assistance for repairs and replacements under the new scheme.
Why The Shift
The new scheme was planned to encourage residents to shift to more energy efficient ways of heating, like LPG or air source heat pumps, but these could cost from £500 to £630— something that low income households cannot quickly produce or set aside. Newer and more highly efficient models are expected to reduce utility bills up to £230, and although this is good news to low income households, the problem remains the same: they do not have the financial capacity to shift to these newer alternatives.
Oil heating industry OFTEC has pointed out those rural areas like Dorset is already experiencing fuel poverty levels higher than other areas. OFTEC’s Malcolm Farrow adds that the new scheme of the government is nonsensical because low income households would lose the financial support that they need, and would have little to no options in shifting to a new heating system because they cannot afford it. He explains that the new scheme would force people to upgrade to new systems that they cannot afford to run, making it more difficult for them to survive and overcome fuel poverty.
Aside from potentially worsening the fuel poverty in rural areas like Dorset, the new scheme could also put others at risk of illness or death, Malcolm adds. The sick and elderly, for example, may choose not to turn on heating despite the cold because they may not want to incur more costs. At the same time, some may also employ unlicensed workers to fix boilers or repair boilers themselves, which could result to bad repairs. Bad repairs could end up damaging more properties and even putting their lives at risk.