Page last updated at 06:49 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Efficiency plan to help fuel poor

Pensioner in living room
Some people have to choose between heating their homes or eating

People living in fuel poverty are to receive more help from the Welsh Assembly Government as part of plans to improved energy efficiency.

The plan aims to reduce Wales' greenhouse gas emissions by helping people save energy and cut costs in the home, at work and in the community.

There will be new rules for the home energy efficiency scheme (HEES).

People receiving means-tested benefits whose homes are not energy efficient will be eligible for help.

The assembly government recently said it would struggle to meet its target to end fuel poverty among the vulnerable by 2010.

Fuel poverty is defined as those who spend more than 10% of their income heating their homes.

The changes to the HEES means those who qualify will receive funding for an improved package of support for the most cost-effective heat-saving measures, including solid wall insulation or micro-generation measures where appropriate.

This scheme was set up at a time when incomes were stable and rising while energy prices were falling... now we have the reverse
Environment Minister Jane Davidson

At present, those who are eligible are either householders on a qualifying benefit with a child under 16, the over-60s, who are disabled or chronically ill, as well as householders over the age of 80.

The National Energy Efficiency and Savings Plan is being launched by Environment Minister Jane Davidson.

As well as the changes to eligibility, the plan wants to offer better advice for members of the public on where to get help; support for small businesses to become more energy efficient; help for credit unions to provide low-cost loans, and an end to public investment in high-carbon home heating.

She said: "As a government we have made a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in devolved areas by 3% a year from 2011.

"Saving energy will help us achieve this. Importantly it also means saving money."

Ms Davidson said the HEES had a good record, but added: "This scheme was set up at a time when incomes were stable and rising while energy prices were falling.

"Now we have the reverse. We need to target the people who most need help, while also ensuring a range of support mechanisms are in place to make sure the most vulnerable do not slip through the net."

Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action welcomed the move but said it had been delayed for too long.

Director Nuria Zolle said: "We are very glad that this plan has finally been published for consultation, however disappointed that it has now been two years since the need for this plan was agreed by the Welsh Assembly Government.

"In this time, energy prices have shot up by 38% pushing an additional 90,000 Welsh households into fuel poverty and bringing the total number of fuel poor households in Wales to an estimated 340,000 - more than 1 in 4 households.

"People in fuel poverty in Wales - families, pensioners and individuals - are paying for the government's procrastination, having to make the terrible choice between eating and heating as their bills increase."

The assembly government provides £23m a year for the HEES.

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