Loft insulation is one of several home improvement measures that may be funded through the ECO scheme
ECO (Energy Companies Obligation) funding
Grants for insulation, whether for a loft, cavity wall or solid wall, and for heating improvements, e.g. a new boiler, are available under the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) programme. This government scheme was launched in January 2013, and replaced the previous Community Energy Savings Programme (CESP) and the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT).
The major energy companies are obliged by government to accrue ECO points up to a target by installing energy efficiency measures, paid for initially by the companies, but ultimately by their customers through energy bills. The overall aims are to cut carbon emissions and address fuel poverty. Hence the scheme is targeted at low income and vulnerable households.
Revised and extended scheme from April 2017
Following a consultation, the government revised and extended the scheme from April 2017 to run for a further 18 months to September 2018. It has a budget of £960 million over 18 months. Certain targets have been set for suppliers over this period, including 37,000 boiler installations and 32,000 solid wall insulations.
There are currently two parts, or 'obligations', through which the energy companies deliver the ECO scheme, although these are 'invisible' to recipients:
- Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation (HHCRO) - also called Affordable Warmth - provides grants for heating measures, such as repair or replacement of boilers, to people in privately owned homes or private-rented properties who receive certain means-tested benefits, e.g. the elderly and disabled. This accounts for 70% of the budget.
- Carbon Emissions Reduction Obligation (CERO) - funds 'primary' measures such as solid wall and cavity wall insulation. 15% of the CERO budget must be allocated to rural areas.
To qualify for most ECO-funded measures you must be the owner of the property or a tenant of a privately rented property. However, from April 2017 tenants of social housing properties with poor energy efficiency ratings (EPC bands E, F and G) also are eligible for Affordable Warmth grants for insulation and first-time heating systems. Recipients generally must be receiving certain benefits. The full range of conditions can be seen on the GOV.UK website.
Local authorities have been given limited scope to determine which homes should get priority for ECO funding, under a new 'flexible eligibility' mechanism. This is intended to help identify households that are fuel poor but not in receipt of qualifying benefits.
Energy companies are required to deliver 21,000 solid wall insulation measures
per year under the revised ECO funding scheme.
Availability of ECO
The availability of ECO funding can vary depending on where you live and the energy company funding the work. When a company has installed sufficient measures to meet its ECO target, there may be a pause in its ECO programme. However, other members of the 'big six' energy suppliers may well still have funding available for that period.
Even within Stafford Borough, the availability of ECO funding varies according to your postcode, with resources focused on the more economically disadvantaged areas, notably ones qualifying as 'Carbon Saving Communities' (CSCO: see below). Wherever you live, ECO is only available for householders who receive one or more of various benefits, including:
- Pension Credit
Suffering financial hardship?
See 'Debts? Get financial help from energy suppliers'
- Tax Credit (+ gross annual income below threshold; e.g. below £28,200 for household with 2 adults and 2 children)
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit (+ net monthly income below threshold; e.g. below £2350 for household with 2 adults and 2 children)
Extra conditions may apply for certain benefits. See GOV.UK for more details. A long-term health problem, such as respiratory disease or coronary heart disease, may qualify you for a grant from the Health Through Warmth scheme run by npower.
If you do qualify for ECO, you should be able to get a replacement gas boiler if your existing boiler is 'beyond economical repair'. Heating controls and electric storage heaters are also eligible measures. Money may also be available to insulate 'virgin' lofts (i.e. completely uninsulated ones) and cavity walls. Funding to 'top up' loft insulation is much harder to get.
More information is available from Warmer Homes Stafford on 0800 677 1785..
ECO funding is assessed and allocated by the contractor working for one of the energy companies. To find out if you are eligible for an ECO grant, the first step is to phone Warmer Homes Stafford on 0800 677 1785.
There is no point in phoning the Energy Saving Advice Service. They will simply refer you to your local authority, who will in turn refer you to Warmer Homes Stafford.
In July 2015, despite axing the Green Deal, the government announced the ECO scheme would continue to run as planned until 2017. Initially it was worth around £1.3 billion per year, funded by the energy suppliers. But the budget was slashed by a third in December 2013, affecting certain ECO-funded programmes. Further changes to ECO came in the wake of a consultation undertaken in 2014, in particular reducing the uptake of solid wall insulation. Some renewable microgeneration technologies may also qualify for ECO funding (see Incentives for renewables).