Thousands of rural homeowners in the North East are being discriminated against by a Government scheme to improve energy efficiency, campaigners claim.
The Coalition’s new “Green Deal home improvement fund” will provide money back to homeowners on the contributions they make to installing measures such as solid wall insulation and new heating systems.
Householders installing measures under the flagship home energy efficiency scheme could get up to £7,600 cash back, under the new plans announced last week.
But oil heating groups say the scheme will discriminate against rural homes off the mains-gas supply as the measures to incentivise upgrading boilers only apply to gas appliances.
An estimated 23,000 rural properties in Northumberland are currently using oil for their central heating and will not be able to get help upgrading their boilers under this new scheme.
Jeremy Hawksley, director general of Oil Firing Technical Association, the trade body for oil-fired heating, said: “Twenty-three thousand households in Northumberland not connected to mains gas are being excluded from this new policy.
“These properties also tend to be older and poorly insulated, often costing more to heat and so this new Government policy is clearly discriminatory and unfair. People living in fuel poverty, which is more prevalent in rural areas, will not be able to benefit.
“When it is considered that a higher proportion of older people tend to live in rural communities, this new policy is not addressing the urgent need to reduce fuel poverty within this vulnerable group.”
Under the previous version of the fund, which is due to expire on June 30, householders could qualify for up to £4,420 back.
The Green Deal, in which providers meet the upfront costs of installing efficiency measures and householders pay the money back from savings they make on their energy bills, has struggled to get off the ground since it was launched more than a year ago.
Just 2,000 households had taken a green deal plan forward by February, the latest month for which figures are available, with 995 homes having completed the process of installing efficiency measures.
Up to £120m is available to cover the higher incentives and could benefit as many as 70,000 homes, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “The best way for households to take control of their energy bills is to use less energy.
“Faulty boilers, draughty windows and insufficient insulation all cause properties to leak hundreds of pounds every year. But advice and support through the Green Deal can help put a stop to this.
“By installing energy-saving improvements, families across the country can enjoy the benefits of warmer, more energy-efficient homes and lower bills.”
Under the new incentive scheme, householders can get up to £1,000 for installing two measures such as secondary glazing, a condensing boiler, flat-roof insulation, replacement doors or double glazing.
They can also qualify for up to £6,000 for solid-wall insulation, and to get up to £100 refunded for their initial green deal assessment, which looks at which measures should be installed.
But the Government has been criticised for failing to improve energy efficiency with its Green Deal scheme.