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11 January 2012
Paul Blacklock, Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs at Calor Gas Ltd, appeared in front of the Select Committee for Energy and Climate Change this morning (Wednesday 11th January), to present evidence for its inquiry into fuel poverty in the private rented and off-grid sectors.
Paul told the Committee that current Government energy efficiency schemes, such as CERT and CESP, are failing rural residents and to date have not effectively reached the majority of rural households. Paul said "government policy needs to recognise the failures of CERT, CESP as far as rural homeowners are concerned and make sure they’re not repeated with Green Deal and ECO".
Paul sought to highlight how fuel poverty in rural areas is caused by a number of complex and inter-linked factors and is often misunderstood by central government. Indeed, as shown by the evidence formally submitted by Calor (which can be found on the DECC website through this link) there is a discernible lack of both credible independent information and formal assistance schemes relevant to householders in off-grid Britain. To date, CERT, CESP and Warm Front have not been effective in reaching rural off-grid areas.
This is due to a wide number of factors, not least that rural fuel poverty does not always neatly align with social poverty as is generally the case in urban areas, but is more closely associated with the quality of housing stock and/or the household demographic.
Additionally, it is difficult to engage successfully with rural communities which are often sparsely located, with community boundaries which do not always adhere to Government statistical geographic output areas. Furthermore, owing to the often isolated physical location of rural households, or their reluctance to admit there is a problem, area-based deprivation indicators do not easily identify rural fuel poverty.
Local knowledge is vital in determining where and how to effectively focus activity. Working at a local level and applying bespoke solutions to fit specific community and householder needs, rather than applying a one-size-fits-all approach, will provide the most effective assistance to those most in need.
To resolve this problem, simple, low-cost energy efficiency measures can be undertaken which make a real difference to increasing household disposable income and reducing fuel bills. Low-cost energy efficiency measures can be undertaken which can make a real difference to rural fuel poverty, such as improving draught-proofing, managing energy demand and usage more effectively, and installing simple insulation measures such as loft insulation where appropriate.
Residents need to be properly educated about appropriate rural energy efficiency measures to ensure that if/when capital works are undertaken, the correct choices for the house type, energy options, and lifestyle are made. Government policy needs to treat rural energy requirements as a separate entity and pay close attention to the evidence submitted by stakeholders throughout the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee's Inquiry.