HOUSEHOLDERS across the UK are to be offered an additional £100 million to fund energy-saving home improvements, after a Government scheme proved so popular it ran out of cash within three months.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey was announcing the new money for the Green Deal home improvement fund at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow.
He was also due to hail progress on making it easier for consumers to cut their bills by switching energy suppliers, and set a target - described by aides as “ambitious” - for smaller independent firms to take 30% of the market from the so-called “Big Six” by 2020.
And he confirmed Lib Dem plans, set out in last month’s pre-manifesto, to offer households a £100-a-year Government-funded council tax discount over the next 10 years if they improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
Appliciations for the first tranche of grants under the £450 million Green Deal - intended to help fund items like wall insulation, double-glazing and new boilers - opened in May, but the first year’s money was all scooped up by the end of July, leaving a gap of several months before would-be home improvers could make fresh bids.
Aides said the new cash would help fill that gap and would remain on offer until it has all been spent.
Mr Davey is expected to tell the Glasgow conference that Lib Dems have delivered “dramatic reform” in the energy market by being “outsiders” and taking on vested interests.
He will announce that all of the major energy firms are now on schedule to meet the challenge he set last year to halve from five to two-and-a-half weeks the time it takes to switch between suppliers.
“We’ve delivered, not by tweaking the same old business-as-usual models we inherited from Labour, not by doing what our Tory Coalition colleagues wanted or what the big energy companies or Whitehall wanted us to do,” Mr Davey was expected to say.
“We’re succeeding because we are outsiders, without vested interests. To begin the big shift from fossil fuels. To take on the Big Six energy firms Labour left Britain with. To win in Europe and the UN for ambitious climate change.
“That’s why I can announce today that I am delivering on my promise to halve switching times this year. Every major energy firm is on schedule to deliver the faster switching I have demanded.
“And that’s why I want to keep backing the agents of real change in Britain’s energy markets - the small firms, innovating to win business.”
Smaller independent companies have increased their share of the market from 1% to almost 8% since the coalition came to power, with two million customers now getting their power from firms outside the Big Six. A million of those have switched over the last year, when some 50% of all switchers moved to independents each month.
“I’m proud that energy independents are supplying nearly eight times as many people as they were under Labour,” Mr Davey will say.
“And I want to see their market share grow more - to 30% or more by the end of the decade. That will mean lower energy bills and better customer service for people across Britain.
“And if we couple this radical shift to smaller suppliers with a step-change on energy efficiency, not only will we see lower energy bills, but we will dramatically cut fuel poverty, reversing Labour’s failure there too.”
The good news is that we are on track to meet our energy efficiency target. One million homes more energy efficient, using our Energy Company Obligation and the Green Deal.
But we must do more. With the major new tax cut for energy efficiency in our pre-manifesto. A 10 year council tax cut. Paid for by central Government. Of at least £100 a year.”