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Off-grid Gas Consumers

Volume 587: debated on Thursday 6 November 2014

In addition to the measures that I described in response to the hon. Member for Southend West (Mr Amess), we have already taken action, but intend to take yet more action, to help off-gas grid customers. We support the Buy Oil Early campaign to encourage people to stock up at good times for price and quick delivery. As my hon. Friend knows, because he attended it, this week we held the fourth ministerial round table on heating oil and liquified petroleum gas to bring together the industry, consumer groups and MPs to discuss these issues. Our amendments to the ECO—energy companies obligation—affordable warmth scheme provide stronger incentives for energy suppliers to install energy efficiency measures in off-gas grid homes.

One of the benefits of being on the gas grid is that people get use of the suppliers’ vulnerable customer register. What more can be done to ensure that those using other fuels can also see the benefits of being registered as vulnerable customers with their suppliers?

That is a very important point that the ministerial round table discussed in some detail. The issue is not just price but resilience of supply of heating oil over the winter months, particularly when there is bad weather. That is one of the reasons why we have the Buy Oil Early campaign. My hon. Friend is right: we need to work with the industry to make sure that customers who are off the gas grid and could be vulnerable are registered.

Nearly 1 million measures have been installed under ECO to date, but fewer than 1,500 of those were installed under the rural sub-obligation—just 0.1%. That means that off-grid customers who have contributed £153 million towards ECO from their energy bills have received measures worth just £600,000. Do the Government agree that they have failed those people and that ECO is not fit for purpose?

No. In fact, the Government have reformed ECO to address that issue. As I would have thought the hon. Gentleman would know, analysis of our ECO reforms, particularly in relation to the affordable warmth scheme to tackle the issue of the fuel poor in off-gas grid areas, shows that we expect to see a 30% delivery of affordable warmth measures in off-gas grid areas compared with just 2% previously.