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Heat now, for tomorrow we freeze

So you think you can tell heaven from hell –
blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail, a smile from a veil?

“The greenest Government ever”. Well, David Cameron. That was a big fat lie, wasn’t it? Your Coalition government has as much chance of achieving that aim as I have of beating Usain Bolt in a 100 yard dash to the pub.

Two things crossed my desk in the last week which really brought home how utterly, utterly ridiculous an idea it would be to scrap the Energy Company Obligation.

The first was the headline in the Daily Express, warning of below zero temperatures from about now to mid-March. We are, it suggested, to expect six foot snow drifts which will last for weeks, crippling the country, killing off our more vulnerable residents and, in the face of massive fuel bill rises, causing thousands of people to choose between eating or heating.

There is part of me that wonders how true this is as the Express seems to be the only paper that’s picked it up and another part that thinks – we’re in the northern hemisphere and heading into winter, so what do you expect?

That being said, with energy bills already taking some people to breaking point, it’s vital that homes are insulated as far as possible (excuse the pun) from the worst effects of the weather and those bills. The best way of spending less on your energy bills is to use less of it. And the best way to use less of it is to have a properly insulated house and efficient heating system.

What kind of idiot would scale back on about the only method of improving the insulation and energy efficiency of thousands of homes? The idiot in charge of our country’s finances, that’s who.

The second thing to cross my desk was a press release detailing how much more efficient and cheaper to run new build homes are than their Victorian or Edwardian equivalents. OK, so not exactly “news” – what have all the Building Regulations changes been for otherwise – but, again, it serves to demonstrate that something needs to be done to improve the efficiency of those Victorian and Edwardian homes.

I say again, what kind of idiot would scale back on about the only method of improving the insulation and energy efficiency of thousands of home? The idiot in charge of our country’s finances, that’s who.

The Energy Company Obligation is funded by the green levies on our energy bills. It ‘obliges’ energy companies to act to help their customers reduce their energy usage in homes where it is difficult to do so using easily accessible materials and methods or where the occupants are in receipt of certain benefits. Already 300,000 installations have been carried out under this scheme, showing that there is massive, massive need for it.

We have been paying these green levies for some time – they also funded CERT, the Companies Energy Reduction Target – brought in by the last Labour administration and we have been paying them since CERT gave way to ECO and the Green Deal in January.

Have all the energy companies already spent all the money they have raised through the levies on improving energy efficiency in customers’ homes? Have they hell! They are still sitting on our money – A LOT of our money – waiting to see what will happen on December 5th.

If ECO goes or is scaled back significantly, not only will those homes that desperately need it not be improved, but the industry will face a bloodbath in terms of job losses.

Just as we are heading out of recession and the recovery is taking hold, what kind of idiots would put the kybosh on a scheme that is giving people warmer, more energy efficient homes and providing employment and livelihoods for thousands upon thousands of people? The idiots in charge, that’s who.

Of course, there’s always the chance that talk of cutting ECO is just hype, perpetrated by the Government to make the Autumn Statement look rather better than was feared. Maybe Cameron is hoping that, if Osborne doesn’t scale ECO back, we’ll all go ‘Oh, well, maybe they’re not so bad after all’.

1) it’s only a teeny, tiny chance and 2) I actually don’t believe this lot are clever enough to have thought of that.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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