Government announces £1 billion investment in energy efficient home improvements – but do you qualify for them?
Over 400,000 more households could get access to energy efficiency improvements, such as loft or wall insulation, after the Government announced plans to expand the existing Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. We've full info on who's eligible, what's available and how to get it.
Update 8 September 2023: The Great British Insulation scheme – previously known as the 'ECO+ scheme' – officially launched on 25 July 2023 and suppliers are now delivering insulation measures.
For further info on this, as well as on the separate existing 'ECO scheme', you can see our Free insulation for the least energy-efficient homes guide.
The ECO scheme, which has been running since 2013, requires suppliers to help low income, fuel poor and vulnerable households to heat their homes by offering energy efficient home improvements. Yet with the rise in energy bills, the Government has announced plans to extend the scheme next year to support 100,000s of households that currently don't benefit.
The Government said £1 billion in extra funding will be made available to some of the least energy efficient homes in the country – those with an 'energy performance certificate' rating of D or below that are in qualifying council tax bands. According to the Government, the measures installed through the new, so-called ECO+ scheme will help households cut annual bills by an average of £310.
ECO+ will run alongside the existing scheme, known as ECO4, and what you can get depends on your circumstances and how energy efficient your home is. The scheme is expected to start officially in the spring of 2023, though the Government has said it will allow suppliers to begin installing measures sooner.
If you're struggling with rising costs, you can try to cut your energy bills with our energy saving tips or see our What to do if you're struggling to pay your energy bills guide for full info on all the help available.
What can you get?
The measures you could get under the planned ECO+ scheme are mainly various types of insulation, including:
- Cavity wall insulation
- Solid wall insulation (external and internal)
- Loft insulation
- Pitched roof insulation
- Flat roof insulation
- Under floor insulation
- Solid floor insulation
- Park home insulation
- Room-in-roof insulation
However, you can only get ONE of the above installed under the scheme. For example, you could get cavity wall insulation OR loft insulation, but not both.
In addition, lower income households and vulnerable households will be eligible to get heating controls, such as thermostatic radiator valves, room thermostats and boiler programmers, but only once insulation has been fitted. However, if you rent your home you won't qualify for these extra measures.
It's likely to be free for low income and vulnerable households, but others may have to pay a portion of the costs
If you meet the low income and vulnerable households criteria (see below for full info), any measure installed is likely to be free.
However, if you get means-tested benefits, but you're eligible through your council tax band and you have a home with poor energy efficiency, you MAY have to pay a portion of the costs. According to the Government, though, this should only be for "higher-cost measures". We don't yet know what constitutes high cost or how much these households will be expected to pay – we'll update this news story when we know more.
There are two sets of eligibility criteria
There are two main groups that qualify under the ECO+ scheme: the 'low income group' and the 'general group'.
- Low income group: To be eligible under this group, you must be living in a household within energy performance certificate (EPC) band D to G. You must also be receiving a means-tested benefit, living in social housing with poor energy efficiency, or get referred by your council as living in fuel poverty or on a low income and vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home.
- General group: This includes all homes in council tax bands A to D in England, A to E in Scotland and A to C in Wales, with an EPC rating of D or below. If you live in social housing, to be eligible for free insulation your home must be in EPC bands E, F or G.
If you're in a low income household, you can also receive support through the ongoing ECO4 scheme rather than the new ECO+ scheme – the energy supplier you apply to (for more on this, see below) should let you know which is right for you.
As the ECO+ scheme aims to cover homes that aren't eligible for support under the existing ECO4 scheme, the Government has said about 80% of funding will go to the general group.
How do I apply for support under the ECO+ scheme?
You should be able to apply for the scheme through any of the participating energy suppliers – all firms with more than 150,000 customers have to take part – and it doesn't have to be your own energy provider. If you're in the low income eligibility group, you may also be able to get support through your council.
When you apply (usually via an energy supplier), the installer will first assess which energy efficient measures are most appropriate for your home.
While the scheme doesn't officially launch until spring 2023, the Government has said that energy suppliers are allowed to begin installations under the new scheme from now if they wish. We don't yet know when any suppliers will start to offer help under the new scheme – we'll update this news story when we know more.
The Government is also looking to add new functionality to its existing Energy Advice page, including the option to self-assess eligibility and self-refer for this and other government support schemes.
What does the Government say?
Business and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said: "The Government put immediate help in place to support households in the wake of global energy price rises caused by Putin's illegal march on Ukraine. Today, we launch the first of many measures to ensure the British public are never put in this position again as we work towards an energy independent future."