Warming up for our latest report – the Warm Homes Programme

Warming up for our latest report – the Warm Homes Programme
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By this time of year many of us are likely to have gone beyond an extra layer of clothing and will be relying on our home heating systems to keep us warm

However, for an estimated 155,000 households [opens in new window] in Wales that are fuel poor, it’s not as simple as turning up the thermostat.

For these households, which make up approximately 12% of all households in Wales, it means a financial struggle to keep their homes warm this winter. Plus, the recent rise in energy bills is likely to have put more financial pressure on these and a further 144,000 households [opens in new window] in Wales estimated to be at risk of falling into fuel poverty. At its most severe level, fuel poverty can result in households having to make the difficult choice between ‘heating and eating’.

Aside from the problem of fuel poverty, the question of the overall energy efficiency of our homes has been brought into even sharper focus as part of the coverage around COP26.

Shortly we’ll be publishing a report on the Welsh Government’s Warm Homes Programme, following on from our October 2019 report on Fuel Poverty. Our latest report will look at how the Welsh Government has managed its contracts for the two schemes that have made up the Programme – Nest and Arbed [opens in new window].

Although delivered in different ways, which our report explores, both schemes have provided a range of vital and free home energy efficiency improvements for eligible households, who may be on a low income and struggling with their fuel bills. While the Arbed scheme ended earlier this month, Nest will continue until at least 2023.

Although contract management might sound a bit dry, at the heart of our report are some bigger questions about the overall purpose of the Programme in future. These include how any future funding will be targeted and how those most in need of support can be more easily identified.

The future direction of the Programme is for the Welsh Government to decide. But it’s clear that what’s gone before, which has relied heavily on supporting gas boiler replacement, will need to change [opens in new window].

And while not all home energy efficiency measures need to cost the earth, quite the opposite in fact, the extra costs of greener measures currently such as air source heat pumps [opens in new window] pose some additional challenges for policy-makers. Until the technology develops, and the costs of such measures reduce, the Welsh Government must decide whether to provide less overall support for fuel poor households or commit additional funding.

About the author

Seth Newman is a Senior Auditor in the National Studies Team. He has been working at Audit Wales since 2016. Prior to this, he has worked at various local authorities in South Wales and the WLGA and has a background in community safety and criminology.